iOS 14.5 launches today, taking on Facebook and Google tracking
Apple's software update, available for free now for iPhones and iPads, brings major privacy changes.
Ian SherrFormer Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. At CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Whether you think it's a genuine effort to embrace CEO
's mantra that "privacy is a fundamental human right," or merely a way to kneecap competition while looking good to customers probably depends on how you feel about Apple.
Buried deep in the agreements we all say yes to but almost never read, most tech companies have written in the right to surveil us on a level once thought possible only in science fiction. Companies can track us across the apps we use, sites we visit and shows we watch. They can learn where we spend our money and what we buy and pair that with the data from our closest friends to create rich profiles of who they think we are.
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As we've learned over the years, that data is worth unimaginable amounts of money. Facebook and Google may've kept their promise that they won't sell information about us to the highest bidder, but still, they have helped advertisers target us with shockingly precise advertising -- and Pew Research has found that many people feel that's bad.
In an interview with the Toronto Star on April 12, Cook said iOS 14.5 was created in part because he believes people should be asked to give consent to modern advertising techniques. In Apple's case, the new software will include a pop-up, asking users if they consent to allowing an app or company to "track" them "across apps and websites owned by other companies" in order to "deliver personalized ads to you."
"We think that some number of people -- I don't know how many -- don't want to be tracked like that," Cook said. "And they should be able to say they don't."
Though Apple's new iOS 14.5 privacy settings will push these issues front and center when they offer people an easy way to turn off more-invasive tracking, they won't put an end to the practice, though Google promises it's easing up a bit.