Apple's new privacy-label database lets you see what data its apps gather on you

The database of privacy labels for Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Apple TV apps tells you exactly what data gets collected when you use them.

Ry Crist Senior Editor / Reviews - Labs
Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
Expertise Smart home technology and wireless connectivity Credentials
  • 10 years product testing experience with the CNET Home team
Ry Crist
2 min read
Apple touted its privacy work at its online WWDC event for developers.

Apple touted its privacy work last year during its online WWDC event for developers.

Apple; screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Apps are everywhere, and pretty much all of them gather data about us whenever we use them. In light of that, Apple in December began requiring app developers to list information about the data their apps gather, in an accessible privacy label. Now the company is taking things one step further, with an easily searchable database of privacy labels for Apple's own apps.

That means anyone running any of Apple's apps on a Mac, an iPhone, an iPad, an Apple Watch or an Apple TV can quickly check to see exactly what data is getting gobbled up.

"Transparency is the best policy," reads the heading atop Apple's database of apps. "Our privacy labels are designed to help you understand how apps handle your data, including apps we develop at Apple."  

Screenshot by Ry Crist/CNET

To check out the database, just head to this link, which includes details for each and every one of the company's apps across iOS, iPadOS, MacOS, WatchOS and TVOS. There are lots, but if you search or scroll through the alphabetical list and find the app you're curious about, you'll see details on the types of data it gathers, and whether that data is tied to your identity.

For instance, the Compass app for iOS collects your location data whenever you use it, but that data isn't linked to your identity. Meanwhile, the Messages app collects your contact info, your search history, and other identifiers linked to who you are. 

That privacy label for the Messages app was a sticking point for WhatsApp, which argued last year that iPhone users would never see it, because the Messages app comes preinstalled. That's anticompetitive, the company argued, as most people who use Messages wouldn't encounter the same privacy disclosures Apple was requiring of competitors like WhatsApp.

Though the online database is new, Apple points out to CNET that privacy labels have been available for all first-party Apple apps since December, when the feature first launched. WhatsApp didn't immediately return a request for comment.