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Apple privacy updates tell you more about how apps use your data

The new privacy features also aim to keep marketers from snooping on your email use, and they address the collection of customer voice recordings.

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Users don't want Apple to collect recordings of their Siri requests, the company said Monday.

CNET
This story is part of Apple Event, our full coverage of the latest news from Apple headquarters.

Apple is updating privacy features in Mail, Siri and access granted to third-party apps, the company said Monday at its annual WWDC developer conference. The features give users more information about what data third parties are collecting from their iPhones or iPads and in some cases they also limit data collection.

Apple is launching an app transparency report that shows you how apps are using the permissions they have to access data like your location, microphone and camera. The company is also updating Siri to process voice commands completely on the device, keeping the sound of a user's voice off of Apple's systems. The move limits data collection by Apple, continuing a trend of keeping more data on user devices, which are encrypted.

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Finally, Apple is cracking down on marketing firms that collect the details of when and where you open promotional emails in its Mail service. Emails can contain code that collects IP addresses, locations and data on how you interact with a message, and the new feature, Mail Privacy Protection aims to shut that down.

Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, said Apple takes issue with the network of third-party data brokers who access information about your activity on Apple devices. "We don't think this is right," Federighi said. "We believe in protecting your privacy and giving you transparency and control over your information."

The app transparency report comes after Apple's April release of iOS 14.5, which featured a technology called App Tracking Transparency. With it, Apple forced companies and developers to be clear about how they're collecting user data and whether it's being used for advertising. Those companies have to also ask for explicit permission from users in order to more closely track them.

The move set off a battle with Facebook, which said Apple's approach was designed to scare customers more than inform them. Additionally, it argued that limiting advertising technology would raise prices for ads across the industry, hurting small businesses most. So far, surveys indicate that nearly all iOS 14.5 users are asking apps not to track them.

Apple has been continuously updating its iOS software since releasing the first iPhone in 2007 and the first iPad in 2010. The company also recently added new privacy features such as "Sign in with Apple," which is also designed to keep apps from collecting information from you without your knowledge.

The updates to Siri, which take advantage of the processing power on users' devices to analyze speech, bring advantages beyond privacy, said Erik Neuenschwander, user privacy manager at Apple. Now users can make Siri requests with no internet connection, and there's less latency with Siri's responses, making phones and tablets respond to voice commands faster, he said.