Apple update blocks apps from sharing your private data

Story by CBC Kids News • 2021-06-01 09:00

New feature hurts businesses, Facebook says


A recent update for iPhone and iPad users included a controversial new feature.

We aren’t talking about the facial identification software that lets you unlock your device while wearing a mask or the new Siri voices.

We’re talking about the new privacy feature that stops companies from tracking you and sharing your personal information.

The tool, which was included in Apple’s iOS 14.5 update that came out on April 26, is called App Tracking Transparency.

While some are calling it a win for people concerned about protecting their privacy, others say it’s a blow to small businesses that rely on social media to market their products.

The debate has shed light on a fact you might not know: Your private data is for sale.

Who’s buying and selling your personal information? Watch this video to find out.

How does tracking work?

Ever notice that one second you’re searching for information about a new product and the next second you’re seeing ads for it?

That’s because everything you search, read or click online is being tracked, said Matthew Johnson, the director of education for a digital literacy organization based in Ottawa called MediaSmarts.

That information can be sold to advertisers, insurance companies, banks or other companies that are hoping to do business with you one day.

The upside is that tracking can help push more useful and relevant ads your way, he said.

The downside is that the private information you give away can be used against you.

For example, the price you see when you’re shopping online can change based on how much an advertiser knows about you, Johnson said.

Apple CEO Tim Cook stands below huge Apple logo.

Apple, which is led by CEO Tim Cook, says it isn’t out to hurt Facebook — or the small businesses that rely on it for advertising — with its new App Tracking Transparency feature. The company says it wants to ‘stand up for our users.’ (Image credit: Stephen Lam/Reuters)

What does Apple’s new feature do?

Once you accept Apple’s new privacy tool, apps will still be allowed to track your activities online and target ads to you.

But they can’t share the information they collect with anybody else.

This change is “very good news for consumers,” said Chester Wisniewski, principal research scientist with data security firm Sophos in Vancouver.

“This is making these companies think twice about what they're collecting.”

Close-up of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's face.

In January, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said ‘Apple may say that they’re doing this to help people,’ but the change is 'clearly' an attack on its competitors. (Image credit: Erin Scott/Reuters)

Facebook is not impressed

Officials at Facebook have been speaking out against the plan since it was announced, saying the change will hurt small businesses.

In a series of blog posts, the company said it needs to have access to private data to create personalized ads.

Those ads “support small businesses and keep apps free,” Facebook said.

Apple’s new feature will force businesses to turn to subscriptions and other in-app payments as a way to make money, said Facebook.

This means Apple makes money, while small businesses have to work harder to reach their customers, Facebook said. Apple’s policy is “about profit, not privacy.”

With files from Pete Evans/CBC
TOP IMAGE CREDIT: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

Get your class on the same page, add this to
Google Classroom

Was this story worth reading?