As it does every year, Apple has used its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) to show off some of the changes coming to its software this year—and, unsurprisingly given Apple’s track record, privacy and security are top of the agenda once more.
The iOS 15 update for your iPhone and macOS 12 Monterey update for your Mac will arrive later in the year, along with improvements designed to keep your data and your devices safe from harm. A lot of these upgraded privacy and security features are due to be applied across both operating systems together.
One of the apps getting a lot of attention this time around is Mail, Apple’s default email client on mobile and desktop. A new feature called Mail Privacy Protection takes aim at the tracking pixels embedded in a lot of emails—when you open your messages, these pixels are loaded, and can filter back information such as your location and your choice of software platform back to the sender.
Marketers, newsletter writers, and plenty of people in between use these tracking pixels to see how many people open their messages, but Mail Privacy Protection stops this data gathering. It won’t be turned on by default, but it will be highlighted as an option when you upgrade to iOS 15 and macOS 12 Monterey. Also, because tracking pixels are just images, this protection applies to all remote-loading images in email. They’re not “blocked” exactly, but routed through a relay that strips out that data gathering but intended to preserve your end experience.
Similarly, Apple is enabling you to keep a closer eye on the apps you’ve installed with these software updates too. Through a feature called App Privacy Report, you’ll be able to see how many times an app has accessed your location, photos, camera, microphone, and contacts during the last week.
If you’re wondering whether an app really needs the permissions that it’s asking for, this Privacy Report should be able to tell you. The report will also list the domains the app is in contact with, and how often, giving users a better idea of just how much data grabbing and transmitting it’s doing.
As for Apple’s digital assistant, Siri, more of the speech recognition work and command processing is going to be done on your specific device. This reduces the amount of data sent back to Apple and stored in the cloud, and meaning it’s less likely that somebody else could be listening in, even if all you mostly do is check the weather, set alarms, and add items to your to-do list.