28 January is Privacy Day and Apple is marking this occasion by sharing a study called ‘A Day in the Life of Your Data’, which walks users through a scenario of a father and daughter’s day at the playground and how their data is tracked by various websites and apps throughout.
Linked from Apple’s Privacy landing page, the new document details the practices of the data collection industry, and how Apple’s privacy features help to safeguard data.
Apple celebrates Privacy Day with ‘A Day in the Life of Your Data’ document
The document starts with the popular Steve Jobs quote from All Things Digital Conference in 2010, where he shared the company’s take on privacy.
“I believe people are smart and some people want to share more data than other people do. Ask them. Ask them every time. Make them tell you to stop asking them if they get tired of your asking them. Let them know precisely what you’re going to do with their data.”
Apple has also shared a number of interesting facts in the document regarding how data is constantly tracked across websites and apps:
- The majority of popular Android and iOS apps have an average of 6 trackers
- These trackers are embedded in the SDKs and APIs that developers use to build their apps
- The data is collected by data brokers who sell, license and disclose personal information to other third parties
- The personal information from these data brokers helps in the creation of consumer profiles with up to 5,000 characteristics which allow for very narrow targeting
- 20% of children’s apps have been found to share personal information without consent
- Despite the data collected by data brokers, targeting is often incorrect. 40% of the attributes are wrong, and can often be replaced by showing ads based on what the user is currently viewing on a page, i.e. contextual ads, which are more relevant and helpful for businesses
The document details how John, the ‘father’ in the example, is having his data collected, and profiles created, including home address, purchase information, and a lot more, without knowingly giving permission. Even his daughter’s information is not safe:
At the end of the day, a number of companies John has never interacted with, all around the world, have updated their profiles with information about him and his daughter. These companies know the family’s house location, the park they visited, the news websites they read, the products they browsed, the ads they watched, their purchasing habits, and the stores they visited. This data was collected and tracked across multiple apps John and his daughter used throughout the day, as well as from other sources. John had no idea how much data was being collected throughout the day, didn’t always have control over it, and didn’t knowingly give permission for it to occur.
Apple’s new App Tracking Transparency feature aims to fix this issue. It will require apps and websites to get a user’s permissions before they can track them. The apps will have to provide reasons on why a user should provide access to information that can be used to track them, and it will be up to the user to opt-in. Users will be able to disable tracking for all apps and websites from iOS, iPadOS, or tvOS settings, or enable and disable them individually for each app. This feature will be available in a future iOS 14 beta update this Spring.
Apple has also introduced privacy nutrition labels to help educate users regarding the data that an app collects. These labels are available for apps in the App Store.