Many of us choose to use an iPhone – as well as other devices in the Apple ecosystem – because of the company’s commitment to user privacy and security. If you need more proof of that commitment, look no further than iOS 14.5, released April 26, with new tools to protect our data while browsing the web and more control over the data installed apps collect about us.
Apple’s latest update protects your privacy and security from apps, websites, services, advertisers and more, but iOS 14.5 offers more than that. In total, it adds more than 60 new features and changes, including more than 200 new emoji, updates to Apple Maps, Apple Music and Reminders, and Siri improvements. If you don̵
Feature 1: Control how apps track your iPhone activity
If you’ve gone through your Settings app in previous versions of iOS, you may have seen a feature called ‘Allow Apps to Request Tracking’. This option controls whether apps can request permission to track your iOS activity in other apps and sites. However, it wasn’t particularly effective, as Apple didn’t need apps to ask for it just yet. With iOS 14.5 that changes.
This feature is one of the standout features of iOS 14.5; you may have even seen a headline or two about it. The update acts as a deadline for developers to add the request to their apps, so prepare for many, many of these popups after updating your iPhone. If you want to avoid those popups and then stop a lot of these apps from tracking you in the first place, there’s a simple switch you can flip.
Feature 2: Turn off private click metering in Safari
With iOS 14.5, Apple implemented a new web privacy feature for Safari called “Private Click Measurement” that allows websites and advertisers to measure ad clicks across websites as well as from iOS apps to websites.
Traditionally, ad tracking has not been a privacy-friendly business. Online advertisers know when you tap an ad in an iPhone app or website to view the ad’s web page in Safari. Advertisers don’t need to know your true identity to take advantage of ad click data. That’s why Apple has built in the “Prevent Cross-Site Tracking” option in Safari that clears this data.
That’s the beauty of PCM – it anonymizes the times you select an ad, so advertisers only see that someone viewed the ad, not specifically you. Advertisers get their advertising data; you keep your privacy.
Apple says PCM “sends attribution reports to advertisers with limited data in a dedicated private browsing mode without cookies, randomly suspends reports between 24 and 48 hours to unlink events in time, and processes data on the device … web does not require the app to be allowed to track according to AppTrackingTransparency. “
You can remove saved clicks when clearing website data (Settings -> Safari -> Advanced -> Website data); no data is recorded in private browsing mode; WebViews within apps can use PCM (although apps using SFSafariViewController may be in the future); and you can unsubscribe if you wish. To do this, go to Settings -> Safari and disable ‘Ad measurement privacy. When disabled, “no click metadata is saved and attribution reports are not sent.”
Feature 3: Apple protects your IP address from Google for even more secure browsing
Ironically, one of the features Safari uses to protect your privacy also sacrifices it in the process. The “Fraudulent Website Warning” shows you a warning if you visit a website that appears to be stealing your personal information or is phishing for sensitive credentials.
Know which Websites are primarily considered phishing, Apple uses Google’s “Safe Browsing” database, which contains all websites Google suspects are fraudulent or malicious. Google shares a list of hashed URL prefixes to Safari from this database. If the website you are trying to view matches one of the hashes, Safari will request the full URL from Google so that Google never knows which URL you are trying to access.
While that may sound secure enough, Google may receive your IP address during this exchange, which is quite a privacy vulnerability. Apple changed this in iOS 14.5 and pulled Google’s Safe Browsing data from its own servers instead of Google’s. That way Google never sees your URL, nor your IP information.
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