Privacy Takes Centre-Stage at Apple WWDC 2021

Apple WWDC 2021 Privacy

User privacy and security is really important for Apple and at their flagship WWDC 2021 event – that theme took centre-stage. The tech giant announced new privacy and security features that will roll out with their latest software.

Audio That Never Leaves Your Device With Siri

Apple announced that Siri, its voice assistant will process speech on your device by default so audio never leaves your phone.

On-device processing will also enable Siri to work offline and process requests much faster. Tasks that Siri can do without an internet connection include simple navigational tasks like setting timers, opening apps, music playback control.

Apple added that this will also address unwanted audio recording which is one of the biggest privacy concerns for voice assistants.

This new privacy feature will be available to Apple devices with the A12 Bionic chip or later and include the iPad(eight generation), iPad Mini(fifth gen), iPad Air(third and fourth gen), iPhone SE(second gen), iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Apple’s Mail App Will Block Hidden Email Trackers

Apple’s Mail app is getting a new privacy feature that will make it harder for invisible email and ad trackers from knowing which emails you’ve opened.

The Mail app will also hide your IP address by default.

Hide My Email Feature

Remember Sign in with Apple? Apple is expanding its capabilities with Hide My Email feature that will allow users to to share unique, random email addresses that will forward emails to their personal inbox. This is to make your private email private.

This feature comes inbuilt on Apple’s Safari app, iCloud Settings, and Mail.

Hide My Email will also let users make and delete as many randomized email addresses as needed at any time, helping give users control of who is able to contact them.

Hide My Email will be available on iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey

iCloud Private Relay

Apple intriduced new iCloud Plus service that brings the Hide My Email feature we’ve talked about above, expanded HomeKit Secure Video and iCloud Private Relay.

The Private Relay is Apple’s version of a VPN – actually a better version as it uses a dual-hop architecture. This feature encrypts your URL so that Apple doesn’t even which websites you’re browsing. This encrypted URL and your IP address gets anonymized and randomized before it travels to an intermediary relay station run by a third-party partner Apple trusts(Apple didn’t name these partners).

The destination URL is unencrypted when at the relay station so the third-party provider can send you on to the website you want to go to.

This Private Relay means that Apple and the Relay Station will know who you are but not where you are visiting while the third-party party Apple trusts will not know who you are but where you are browsing.

“Core to the nature of the internet is that the IP address is traditionally exposed between the requester and the host – and that has some privacy knock on effects that aren’t always understandable to users and certainly aren’t always desirable to users. And so that’s a problem we wanted to solve,” said Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi.

Private Relay is enabled by default when you sign in to your iCloud Plus account on a Mac, iPhone, or iPad. Also, this feature works only with Safari.

Users can still use third-party VPNs and won’t have to disable Apple’s Private Relay if they want to access geo-restricted content.

App Privacy Report

Apple also announced App Privacy Report, a continuation of its App Tracking Transparency feature that will be added to Settings on iOS 15 to give consumers an overview of privacy-related matters with regards to the apps installed on your device including how often said apps access your contacts, location, microphone, camera or data and other identifiers.

This feature will show which third-party sites are receiving your information too.

iOS 15 Built-in Authenticator

Another privacy enhancement feature is the new built-in authenticator that ships with iOS 15. The authenticator will allow iOS devices to generate verification codes for additional sign-in security which users will be able to set under Passwords in Settings.

The codes will autofill when you log into a site and improve two-factor authentication on your iPhone and iPad.

Beyond Passwords: All You Need to Know

Apple WWDC 2021: FaceTime Comes To Android and Windows

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George Kamau
I brunch on consumer tech | first.last at techweez dot com