Commentary

Apple Takes Harder Line On Privacy

In the wake of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica calamity, Tim Cook spitefully suggested that Apple was immune to such privacy breaches. That’s because Apple doesn’t “traffic in your personal life,” Cook said at the time. “Privacy to us is a human right, a civil liberty.”

Since Cook made those comments, however, Apple seems to have determined that its developer agreements left it exposed to a major data mishap.

As was first reported by Bloomberg, the tech giant has thus updated its App Store guidelines to limit developers’ access to user information.

Most notably, Apple is no longer letting developers do what they please with the personal contacts of iPhone owners.

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What this means for developers big and small is not yet entirely clear. That, of course, didn’t stop industry watchers from speculating about possible implications on Wednesday.

“This is interesting not because of contact collection, but because it also implies things like the Facebook SDK will be banned, which tracks usage across the phone,” one developer suggested.

However, other industry folks argue that this is the best thing that could have ever happened to Facebook.

With the changes, “Apple ensures that today’s dominant social networks will remain dominant by shutting off access to the address book,” tweeted Mike Dudas, co-founder of Button, a startup dedicated to helping developers make more money from their apps. “Good luck building a useful, large community.”

As is its way, Apple didn’t feel the need to address the changes this week.

More broadly, the changes tie into Apple’s efforts to distance itself from Facebook and other data-fueled companies, which are increasingly drawing unwanted attention from lawmakers and less powerful critics.

Earlier this month, for instance, the company said its soon-to-launch macOS Mojave operating system will stop social media apps from tracking users’ open-Web browsing habits.

Specifically, what Apple is calling an “Intelligent Tracking Prevention” feature will block data collection through social-media buttons and widgets.

The danger, of course, is that Apple’s harder line on user privacy will deter developers from building applications for its IOS mobile operating system.

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