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Apple's latest privacy updates put an ever-tightening squeeze on third-party developers

By Andrew Blustein, Reporter

June 4, 2019 | 4 min read

At Monday's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple announced a handful of restrictions on third parties that further cement its privacy-first customer approach.

Apple is saying its new sign in feature better protects users' data

Apple is saying its new sign in feature better protects users' data

When unveiling iOS 13, the latest iteration of Apple's mobile software, senior vice-president of software engineering Craig Federighi said the company believes "privacy is a fundamental human right," and Apple's products reflect that credo.

In a potential blow to marketers, Apple is introducing 'Sign in with Apple.' It's similar to sign in features from Google and Facebook, but it supposedly lets users hide their online identity, namely their email addresses from apps.

In turn, Apple will create a random, anonymzed email address for each user that forwards to that user's actual email address.

Apple is also giving users more control over location tracking. Federighi said a user can now "just once" choose share location data with a third-party app, which are then required to ask for permission the next time that user enters the app.

Taking location tracking one step further, Apple is closing supposed backdoors where third parties can piggyback off of a phone's Bluetooth or wifi signals to determine user location.

Apple's web browser Safari already heavily limits cookie tracking. With the tech giant already promising "what happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone," this latest privacy puts an even bigger influence on first-party data.

"Many apps try to bypass location-sharing restriction by scanning for Bluetooth and wifi signals which can actually reveal the user’s location," said Gabe Morazan, director of product management at software company Crownpeak.

"Apple’s new feature to restrict geo-location tracking from third-party developers will shift the balance from third party data towards first-party data giving back control to consumers over their data, which is a fundamental of data privacy. It may not make a huge difference but it's a good start."

Morazan added that Apple's move represents a shift in companies working toward earning user data, as consumers are demanding "a more transparent and fair value-exchange to give up personal information".

Google has taken a step in that direction with its own third-party cookie limitations on its market-leading web browswer Chrome.

Still, Google and fellow data behemoth Facebook have come under scrutinty over their privacy practices, including from Apple directly.

Brian Kane, chief operating officer at publisher platform Sourcepoint, believes Apple has the marketing dollars to continue to make privacy a key talking point and differentiator.

"Now Apple is using the issue as a platform to pitch itself against the likes of Google and Facebook. If anyone can make this a hot topic among users Apple can, and these other companies will have to respond to the best of their ability."

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