Apple OS To Block Facebook Web Tracking Tools

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Blow for Zuckerberg as Apple says it will block Faceboook’s web tracking tools in new Mac OS and iOS

Apple has declared it will halt the data gathering activities by the likes of Facebook with the release of new versions of its iOS and Mac operating systems.

The announcement was made by software chief Craig Federighi, at Apple’s developers WWDC conference, when he revealed that Apple will attempt to frustrate tools used by Facebook to automatically track web users.

“We’re shutting that down,” he was quoted by the BBC as saying. Instead, Safari will ask for user’s permission before allowing the social network to monitor their activity.

Do not track

Apple’s decision to block these web tracking tools will likely raise tensions between the two tech giants.

Facebook of course depends heavily on advertising revenues (assisted by tracking tools) to fund its free service, but Apple’s decision means it is no longer willing to allow its platforms to be used in this way.

Apple’s Federighi went further however and specifically singled out Facebook, saying it keeps watch over people in ways they might not be aware of.

“We’ve all seen these – these like buttons, and share buttons and these comment fields,” he reportedly said on stage. “Well it turns out these can be used to track you, whether you click on them or not.”

Federighi then pointed to an onscreen alert that asked: “Do you want to allow Facebook.com to use cookies and available data while browsing?”

“You can decide to keep your information private,” he said.

Apple attack

Apple and Facebook have of course clashed previously.

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook for example has previously expressed his disquiet at social networking platforms.

Earlier this year whilst visiting a school in England Cook said that while he doesn’t have his own kids, he does not want his nephew to use a social network.

“I don’t have a kid, but I have a nephew that I put some boundaries on,” Cook was quoted as saying by The Guardian. “There are some things that I won’t allow; I don’t want them on a social network.”

Cook has also previously described Facebook’s practices as being an “invasion of privacy”, but Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg subsequently said that Cook’s opinion was “glib”.

Meanwhile Apple also revealed that MacOS Mojave would attempt to halt a technique called “fingerprinting”, in which advertisers try to track users who delete their cookies.

The method involves identifying computers by the fonts and plug-ins installed among other configuration details. To counter this, Apple will reportedly present web pages with less details about the computer.

“As a result your Mac will look more like everyone else’s Mac, and it will be dramatically more difficult for data companies to uniquely identify your device,” Federighi explained.

Upcoming features

Apple also intends another major addition for iOS 12, called ‘Time Limit’.

This will allow users to pre-determine how much time they should spend using individual apps, and bring up a full-screen alert when an allowance is used up.

Other new additions in iOS 12 include Memojis, (animated emojis configured to look like device owners) and Group Facetime for up to 32 people on one video or group call.

WatchOS will also be tweaked to include Walkie-Talkie – a push-to-talk Watch app, that will let two users chat together via 4G or Wi-Fi.

And the next version of the Mac OS will also include a new dark mode for people who like the colour black.

Facebook meanwhile is still dealing with the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica data-sharing scandal.

And on Monday Facebook denied claims by the New York Times that it breached privacy pledges made to the public and to US regulators when it shared information with mobile device makers.

Quiz: How well do you know Apple?

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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