Apple is improving privacy features, but is it enough?

Joe Bosso 5 Jul 2021

Here's how Apple's privacy features impact online tracking and privacy

Apple recently announced several new privacy features, which is wonderful news. As more and more of our lives become digital, consumer privacy is becoming increasingly important and many of these new features will be included for all users as Apple continues to embrace Privacy by Design. However, some of the new features will be behind a paywall, as part of iCloud+, so be prepared to pay if you want to take advantage of the full functionality. 

Further reading:
How will advertisers respond to Apple’s latest privacy changes?
What Apple's iOS update means for digital privacy and identity

iCloud Private Relay

iCloud Private Relay is one of these paid features. It will function like a VPN when browsing the web using Safari, so users will be able to encrypt and proxy all Safari traffic through two web servers to hide their IP address and location. This will prevent your internet service provider, the websites you visit, and Apple itself from seeing your IP address and what you search for. That’s great! But it’s not total privacy —applications on your smartphone will still be able to track you.  And if you choose to use Chrome or Firefox or any browser other than Safari, you’d still be tracked.

Marketers could use another method to track you online, such as browser fingerprinting. Browser fingerprinting is a tracking method that identifies you via hardware and software configurations that connect you to a website. For example, your browser, time zone, default language, screen resolution, operating system, and extensions are some of the hundreds of data points that make up your browser fingerprint. IP address and location are just two data points within that set, so Apple’s Private Relay is unlikely to prevent tracking methods which include fingerprinting. 

When this new Apple technology is released, it will temporarily make it a tad more difficult for trackers to identify you, but it is only a matter of time until they adapt their technology to account for this change. It is unlikely that any large multinational corporation, such as Apple, will willingly give up a large revenue stream of theirs, like ad revenue. For the time being, people will need to continue to take actions to protect their privacy on their own. 

As more information about these new Apple privacy features comes out, we will continue to analyze how it impacts online tracking and your privacy. At this point, it is hard to believe that this new feature will have a large impact for most users. However, it is a very encouraging sign that a company like Apple is taking a step in the right direction, even if we’re not completely there yet.

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