As of December 2020, the iPhone App Store will now offer “App Privacy” labels on all of its App Store listings. Using this information, you can make an informed decision about how apps track you and respect your privacy before downloading an app. Here’s how.
7;s sudden focus on privacy?
With the launch of iOS 14 last year, Apple recently began to pay more attention to privacy concerns in smartphones and the apps that run on them. It’s a way for Apple to differentiate itself from its competitors, and done right, Apple’s privacy safeguards can benefit its customers.
Until recently, the ways iPhone and iPad apps could track you or use your personal information were not completely transparent to the user. Apple has set out to change that with new App Store labels that represent a sort of “food label” for digital privacy. You can now see at a glance the privacy performance of each app and decide if it suits your personal comfort level.
RELATED: All new iPhone privacy features in iOS 14
Check the privacy label of an app in the iPhone App Store
First, open the App Store on your iPhone. While browsing the App Store, find the item for the app you want to check privacy for and tap it. Scroll down the app’s detailed list until you see the ‘App Privacy’ section.
Under ‘App Privacy’ you will see a summary of the privacy information that the developer of the app has reported to Apple. Here are the three main sections and what they mean:
- Information used to track you: Information used to track you through apps and websites owned by companies other than Apple. This helps advertisers build a profile based on your online behavior so that they can show you personalized ads.
- Information associated with you: Information collected and linked to your personal identity. For example, Facebook knows your name and certain information it collects is always associated with your name in its database.
- Information not linked to you: Information collected but not linked to your identity. In other words, the data is collected but not stored in a way that would personally connect it to you.
Each app uses data in different ways, so you may not see some of these sections in some apps. For example, the Facebook app page doesn’t have a “Data not associated with you” section, but for Signal that’s the only section that applies.
To get more details on any of these sections, tap the “View Details” button located just next to the “App Privacy” heading.
After tapping, you’ll see a detailed page of data collected in those three possible categories (although not all three apply to all apps). In some cases, this detailed page is further broken down into subcategories, such as “Third-party ads” and “Ads or marketing for developers.
The list of possible data points is too long to fully explore here, but it’s impressive how detailed the privacy detail screen can be. For an extreme example, check out the Facebook app’s app privacy details page and you’ll scroll across six or seven screen lengths. As you may have seen in the news, Facebook isn’t happy Apple is making some of its tracking habits public.
What if I don’t like the way an app uses my data?
If you find yourself viewing the app’s privacy information in the App Store and don’t like what you see, there are a few things you can do. The first option is not to install the app. There may be an alternative in the app store that better respects your privacy (for example, by using Signal instead of WhatsApp).
The second option is to politely ask the developer to create a less privacy-invasive version of their app or service, but chances are generally good. Over time, we can potentially hope that Apple’s new privacy labels will put general pressure on the app industry to be more aware of what information is being collected and how that information is being used. Until then, at least we have Apple’s new App Privacy section in our arsenal. As the old saying goes, knowledge is power.
RELATED: What is signal and why is everyone using it?