Apple Updates Data Privacy Controls As GDPR Looms

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New software adds privacy information to mobile gadgets, with web-based controls on the way for managing data

Apple has added new privacy controls for its mobile, desktop and TV devices, with additional data features planned ahead of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into force in May.

Updates for iOS, macOS and tvOS released late on Thursday display a new screen giving information about the data-gathering practices in Apple applications such as its App Store.

And later this spring, Apple said it would revamp its web-based controls for the data it holds on users.

The change will allow users to download a copy of the data Apple holds on them, as well as allowing them to correct their personal information, temporarily disactivate their Apple ID account or permanently delete it.

GDPR shift

Previously users needed to contact Apple directly to correct their information, download their data or delete an account. Apple said the changes are intended to comply with the GDPR.

Suspending an Apple ID means Apple will  not process the data in that account during the suspension period. If an account is deleted, Apple will delete its associated data within 30 days.

The data download feature includes all the information Apple holds across multiple applications, including Contacts, Calendar, media apps and preferences for song streaming in Apple Music.

The web-based privacy features are to be released in early May for users in Europe, and later in other areas.

The privacy controls, which were previewed in January, arrive at a moment when Facebook is attracting criticism for allowing London-based Cambridge Analytica to improperly obtain detailed information on 50 million users. The data was later allegedly used in efforts to influence the 2016 US presidential election.

Apple, which makes most of its revenues from hardware sales, has emphasised this fact in order to portray itself as focused on privacy.

At a recent summit in China Apple chief executive Tim Cook said the Facebook scandal was “so dire” that it indicated a need for “well-crafted” regulation.

“The ability of anyone to know what you’ve been browsing about for years, who your contacts are, who their contacts are, things you like and dislike and every intimate detail of your life – from my own point of view it shouldn’t exist,” he said.

Battery scandal

The iOS 11.3 update adds a switch to deactivate a battery management feature that has attracted criticism and multiple lawsuits since it came to light late last year.

The feature, introduced in January 2017, slows down iPhones with older batteries in order to maximise battery life. Apple didn’t inform users it was putting the feature into place and offered no way of disabling it.

The update also adds the ability for some US users to view their health records on an iPhone, and new animated emojis for the iPhone X.

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