Apple shows up cocked and locked in the duel of the information titans

 The tech association's new portable working framework can stop applications following you, yet is it as large an arrangement as everybody, particularly Facebook, thinks? 

I've recently downloaded v14.5, the most up to date form of iOS, the working framework that runs my iPhone. Among the new highlights it brags are: the alternative to open the telephone with an Apple Watch while wearing a veil; support for something many refer to as the AirTag; separate skintone varieties for emoticons of couples; and more assorted voice choices for Apple's voice collaborator, Siri. None of these "highlights" is very useful to me. Yet, adaptation 14.5 adds something that profoundly interests me – the capacity to control which applications are permitted to follow my movement across other organizations' applications and sites.

Apple calls this “app-tracking transparency” (ATT) and it concerns a code known as “the identity for advertisers” or IDFA. It turns out that every iPhone comes with one of these identifiers, the object of which is to provide hucksters with aggregate data about the user’s interests. Ponder that for a moment and then reflect on the irony of a company that since 2013 has been 

selling such tagged devices, while at the same time bragging about its commitment to users’ privacy. Apple’s defence, of course, is that savvy users could have disabled the IDFA via the phone’s settings and privacy menus, a response that connoisseurs of evasiveness will recognise as the Jesuitical ploy used by tech companies that know most customers would rather eat raw seaweed than tamper with the factory defaults on their devices.

But iOS 14.5 apparently changes all that; now, iPhone users are asked if they want to opt in to tracking. A pop-up dialogue box appears saying: “Allow [app name] to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites?” and providing two options: “ask app not to track” and “allow”. En passant, note that it says “ask” rather than “tell”, another subtle indicator of how much tech companies actually care about their users’ agency.

When Apple announced months ago that it was planning to make this change, the big shots in the data-tracking racket went apeshit, rightly inferring that many iPhone users would decline to be tracked when offered such an obvious escape route. Suddenly, the lucrative $350bn business of collecting user data to sell to data brokers, or linking a user’s app data with third-party data that was collected in order to target ads, was under threat. The new rules, Apple said, would also affect other app processes, including sharing location data with data brokers and implementing hidden trackers for the purpose of conducting ad analytics. 


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