Category Archives: Apple

Apple Enhanced Privacy and Security in iOS 13



Apple announced updates and new features that are part of iOS 13. Several of them enhance user’s privacy and security. A new app location transparency feature is part of iOS 13. It sends users an notification when an app is using your location in the background, so you can decide whether to update your permission.

9To5Mac reported that the notification shows a map of the location data a specific app has tracked. The notification says the name of a specific app “has been using your location in the background. Do you want to continue allowing this?” It also shows a small explanation of what the app is using your location for.

Users get to choose what they want to do about that tracking. Options include continuing to allow a specific app background access to your location, changing permission to “only while using”, or “allow once”. The “allow once” option is considered temporary authorization, with the app prompting again the next time it is opened.

Other privacy and safety features include:

Location controls for shared photos: Now you can control whether you share your location when you share a photo on social media.

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth location privacy enhancements: API changes and new controls will help prevent apps from accessing your location without you consent using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

Hide My Email: Not sure you want to share your email address with a particular app? You can choose to share or hide your email address. You can also have Apple create a unique email address for you that forwards to your real address.

Respect for your privacy: Apple says it will never track or profile you when you sign in with Apple. The most information you’ll have to share with an app or website is your name and email address.

I think that most Apple users will become more aware of not only how many apps they have on their phone, but also what data those apps are tracking (or collecting). People might decide to delete apps that are too grabby. Personally, I think it is really nice that Apple cares enough about user’s privacy and security to implement these notifications and changes.


Apple Introduced the New iPod Touch



Apple introduced the new iPod touch. At a glance, it could easily be mistaken for a iPhone. The new iPod touch starts at $199 and is available to order on apple.com and the Apple Store now. It will become available in stores later this week.

Previous versions of the iPod touch focused on music. The new iPod touch has more to offer. It has an Apple-designed A10 Fusion chip which brings improved performance in games and immersive augmented reality (AR) experiences – which is a first for the iPod series.

It also has Group FaceTime, which makes it easy for people to simultaneously chat with several people. FaceTime calling requires a FaceTime-enabled device for the caller and recipient and a Wi-Fi connection.

The new iPod touch comes in a new 256GB capacity, giving plenty of space to download music for offline listening through Apple Music or the iTunes store. Apple Music subscribers can access a catalog of over 50 million songs, thousands of playlists, Beats 1 Radio and daily editorial selections from the world’s best music experts.

This fall, gamers can look forward to Apple Arcade, a game subscription service with over 100 new and exclusive games with no ads or additional purchases, with the ability to download games for offline play. It appears that at least some of these games would be playable on the new iPod touch.

I think the new iPod touch could be a good thing for parents who don’t think their child is ready for their very own smartphone, but do want a way to easily contact their child. The kid can use the new iPod touch to play games that don’t come with ads or micro transactions. Parents can have some control over how much music their child downloads.

The new iPod touch starts at $199 (US) for the 32GB model, $299 (US) for the 128GB model, and $399 (US) for the 256GB model. It comes in six finishes: space grey, white, gold, blue, pink and (PRODUCT) RED.


Apple Created Technology to Preserve Privacy and Help Ad Clicks



One of the reasons people use ad-blockers is because ads are annoying. Ads clutter up websites, autoplay, and track where you go online. They stick unwanted cookies on your computer. These are some of the many reasons why people avoid ads.

Apple has created a new technology to allow attribution of ad clicks on the web while preserving user privacy.

We propose a modern way of doing ad click attribution that doesn’t allow for cross-site tracking of users but does provide a means of measuring the effectiveness of online ads. It is built into the browser itself and runs on-device which means that the browser vendor does not get to see what ads are clicked on or when purchases are made.

Apple points out that today’s practice of ad click attribution “has no practical limit on the bits of data, which allows for full cross-site tracking of users using cookies.” Apple notes that this is privacy invasive, “and thus we are obliged to prevent such ad click attribution from happening in Safari and Webkit.”

Apple used the following principles when designing the Privacy Preserving Ad Click Attribution technology:

  • Users should not be uniquely identified across websites for the purposes of ad click attribution.
  • Only websites that users visit should be involved in measuring ad clicks and conversions.
  • The browser should act on behalf of the user and do its best to preserve privacy while reporting on ad click attribution.
  • The browser vendor should not learn about the user’s ad clicks or conversions.

I like that Apple is doing something to protect user’s privacy. Those who use Safari can rely on their browser to reduce the amount of data that websites suck up via ads or ad clicks. This technology will stop cross-site tracking from happening.

The Privacy Preserving Ad Click Attribution has three steps:

  • Store ad clicks. This is done by the page hosting the ad at the time of an ad click.
  • Match conversions against stored ad clicks. This is done on the website the ad navigated to as a result of the click. Conversions do not have to happen right after a click and do not have to happen on the specific landing page, just the same website.
  • Send out ad click attribution data. This is done by the browser after a conversion matches an ad click.

People who use Safari can try out the Privacy Preserving Ad Click Attribution as an experimental feature in Safari Technology Preview 82+.


Apple Cracks Down on Apps that Limit Screen Time



The New York Times reported that Apple has removed or restricted at least 11 of the 17 most downloaded screen-time and parental-control apps, and also clamped down on a number of lesser-known apps that had the same functions. The analysis was done by The New York Times and an app-data firm called Sensor Tower.

In some cases, Apple forced companies to remove features that allowed parents to control their children’s devices or that blocked children’s access to certain apps and adult content. In other cases, it simply pulled the apps from its App Store.

According to the New York Times, Apple started removing or restricting apps that allow people to limit their own, or their children’s screen-time shortly after Apple made its own screen-time app. In addition, in order to use Apple’s screen-time app to limit children’s screen time, the entire family must have iPhones. Obviously, this would be very beneficial to Apple.

The New York times reported a statement from Apple:

“We treat all apps the same, including those that compete with our own services,” said Tammy Levine, an Apple spokeswoman. “Our incentive is to have a vibrant app ecosystem that provides consumers access to as many quality apps as possible.” She said Apple removed or required changes to the apps because they could gain too much information from users’ devices. She added that the timing of Apple’s moves was not related to its debut of similar tools.

There are two groups of people who are directly affected by this. One is the screen-time app makers, who are losing business due to their app being removed from the App Store. The other are some parents who were using one of those apps to control their children’s phones – and who cannot do that anymore with the app they were originally using. Apple’s screen-time app reportedly provides the option “Ignore Limit” when a user hits the app’s time limit.

One thing is clear. Apple has a whole lot of control over what apps are allowed in the App Store, and can and does remove apps that it feels should not be there. On the one hand, it makes sense for Apple to remove apps that have malware or otherwise are acting maliciously.

On the other hand, this situation shows that removal of apps has a negative impact on the companies who create them and the people who use them. I think this situation is going to make some people want Apple to be investigated for the purpose of determining whether or not some regulation is needed.


Stanford Medicine Announced Results of Apple Watch Study



Stanford Medicine announced the results of the Apple Heart Study. The study was funded by Apple. There were over 400,000 participants in the study.

The study was launched in November of 2017, and was a first-of-its-kind research study using Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor to collect data on irregular heart rhythms and notify users who may be experiencing atrial fibrillation (AFib). The condition often remains hidden because many people don’t experience symptoms.

Key findings from the study include:

  • Overall, only 0.5 percent of participants received irregular pulse notifications, an important finding given concerns about potential over-notification.
  • Comparisons between irregular pulse-detection on Apple Watch and simultaneous electrocardiography patch recordings showed the pulse detection algorithm (indicating a positive tachogram reading) has a 71 percent positive predictive value. Eighty-four percent of the time, participants who received irregular pulse notifications were found to be in atrial fibrillation at the time of the notification.
  • One-third (34 percent) of the participants who received irregular pulse notifications and followed up by using an ECG patch over a week later were found to have atrial fibrillation. Since atrial fibrillation is an intermittent condition, it’s not surprising for it to go undetected in subsequent ECG patch monitoring.
  • Fifty-seven percent of those who received irregular pulse notifications sought medical attention.

As part of the study, if an irregular heart rhythm was identified, participants received a notification on their Apple Watch and iPhone, a telehealth consultation with a doctor, and an electrocardiogram (ECG) patch for additional monitoring.

In short, it appears that the Apple Watch is able to detect AFib. This is good news, because it means people can take that information to their doctor and start a discussion about what to do next. It does not mean people should rely entirely on the results the Apple Watch gives them and avoid seeing a doctor.


Apple Addressed Spotify’s Claims



Recently, Spotify filed a complaint against Apple with the European Commission. Yesterday, Apple posted a statement titled “Addressing Spotify’s claims”. I suspect this will not be the end of the argument between Spotify and Apple.

Apple started by giving a brief history of the iTunes Store and the App Store. After that, Apple begins making a case against Spotify. To be clear, I am personally not on the side of either one of these companies.

What Spotify is demanding is something different. After using the App Store for years to dramatically grow their business, Spotify seeks to keep all the benefits of the App Store ecosystem – including the substantial revenue that they draw from the App Store’s customers – without making any contributions to that marketplace. At the same time, they distribute the music you love while making ever-smaller contributions to the artists, musicians, and songwriters who create it – even going so far as to take these creators to court.

Here are a few key points from Apple’s post:

  • We’ve approved and distributed nearly 200 app updates on Spotify’s behalf, resulting in over 300 million downloaded copies of the Spotify app. The only time we have requested adjustments is when Spotify has tried to sidestep the same rules that every other app follows.
  • When we reached out to Spotify about Siri and AirPlay 2 support on several occasions, they’ve told us they’re working on it, and we stand ready to help them where we can.
  • Spotify is deeply integrated into platforms like CarPlay, and they have access to the same app development tools and resources that any other developer has.
  • We found Spotify’s claims about Apple Watch especially surprising. When Spotify submitted their Apple Watch app in September 2018, we reviewed and approved it with the same process and speed with which we would any other app. In fact, Spotify Watch app is currently the No. 1 app in the Watch Music category.
  • Apple claims that Spotify wants all the benefits of a free app without being free.
  • The only contribution that Apple requires is for digital goods and services that are purchased inside the app using our secure in-app purchase system. As Spotify points out, that revenue share is 30 percent for the first year of an annual subscription – but they left out that it drops to 15 percent in the years after.
  • “The majority of customers use their ad-supported product, which makes no contributions to the Apple Store.”
  • “A significant portion of Spotify’s customers come through partnerships with mobile carries. This generates no App store contribution but requires Spotify to pay a similar distribution fee to retails and carriers.”
  • “Even now, only a tiny fraction of their subscriptions fall under Apple’s revenue-sharing model. Spotify is asking for that number to be zero.”

Personally, it seems to me that Apple and Spotify are having a disagreement that does not appear to be something that will end soon. I would not be surprised if the result of this spat causes Spotify and Apple to part ways.


Spotify Filed Complaint Against Apple with European Commission



Founder and CEO of Spotify, Daniel Ek, posted “Consumers and Innovators Win on a Level Playing Field” on the Spotify Newsroom. In it, he announces that Spotify has filed a complaint against Apple with the European Commission (EC).

Daniel Ek starts by pointing out that his goal for Spotify is to reimagine the audio experience by giving consumers the best creativity and innovation they have to offer. For that to be a reality, his belief is that companies like Spotify must operate in an ecosystem in which fair competition is not only encouraged, but guaranteed.

It’s why, after careful consideration, Spotify has filed a complaint against Apple with the European Commission (EC), the regulatory body responsible for keeping competition fair and nondiscriminatory. In recent years, Apple has introduced rules to the App Store that purposely limit choice and stifle innovation at the expense of the user experience – essentially acting as both a player and referee to deliberately disadvantage other app developers. After trying unsuccessfully to resolve the issues directly with Apple, we’re now requesting that the EC take action to ensure fair competition.

Here are some key points from Daniel Ek’s post:

Apple requires that Spotify and other digital services pay a 30% tax on purchases made through Apple’s payment system, including upgrading from our Free to Premium service. If we pay this tax, it would force us to artificially inflate the price of our Premium membership well above the price of Apple Music.

If we choose not to use Apple’s payment system, forgoing the charge, Apple then applies a series of technical and experience-limiting restrictions on Spotify. For example, they limit our communication with our customers – including our outreach beyond the app. In some cases we aren’t even allowed to send email to our customers who use Apple. Apple also routinely blocks our experience-enhancing upgrades.

Here is what Spotify is asking for:

  • Apps should be able to compete fairly on the merits, and not based on who owns the App Store. We should all be subject to the same fair set of rules and restrictions – including Apple Music.
  • Consumers should have a real choice of payment systems, and not be “locked in” or forced to use systems with discriminatory tariffs such as Apple’s.
  • App stores should not be allowed to control the communications between services and users, including placing unfair restrictions on marketing and promotions that benefit customers.

It will be interesting to see what the European Commission decides. If Spotify wins, it could open up the opportunity for other app makers, who are not pleased with Apple, to file their own complaints.