iPhone update adds privacy 'transparency'

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iPhoneImage source, Getty Images

Apple has updated its iOS, MacOS and tvOS operating systems to give people more information about how their personal data is collected and used.

After updating, customers will see new information screens when they use Apple-made apps that collect personal data, such as App Store.

The change comes ahead of new EU data protection rules, which take effect on 25 May.

Apple also plans to let people download the data it has stored about them.

The EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) toughens the requirements on how organisations handle the public's data, and imposes harsher penalties for breaches.

Apple has previously promoted its services and smartphones as being privacy-focused.

The latest software update does not change how much data is collected, but new privacy information screens will appear when people use certain Apple-made apps for the first time.

Image caption,
iPhone users will see a new screen when apps collect data for the first time

Tapping the notice will display detailed information about what data is being collected and how it is used.

However, customers will not be able to switch off some types of data collection. For example, they will not be able to download free apps from the App Store without first setting up an Apple ID account.

Apple also plans to release new tools in May that will let customers:

  • download a copy of all the data Apple stores about them, including photos, videos and iCloud back-ups
  • temporarily deactivate their Apple ID, which will stop Apple processing the data
  • permanently delete their Apple ID, which will erase all the data Apple stores within 30 days.

The privacy-focused Open Rights Group welcomed the changes.

"Making privacy settings more transparent and giving people more control is better. This is happening because companies are checking what they are doing before new data protection rules kick in," said Jim Killock.

"The new rules have forced everyone to make changes, including some of the big US-based companies. That's a victory for privacy and it shows that we can win improvements if governments listen to people's well-founded concerns about privacy."

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