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Does iOS 14 set a new standard for mobile privacy and security?

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The old saying, "Never discuss politics or religion in polite company," feels more relevant than ever in a world of increasing division and binary thinking. If you wanted to give the warning a 21-century upgrade, you would simply need to add smartphone operating systems into the conversation and stand back to enjoy the show.

However, the reality is that iOS has grown increasingly similar to Android over the years. 

As everything begins to look the same, privacy and security have become the new battleground.

Google says all the right things about caring about your privacy. But the inconvenient truth is that it's arguably an advertising company that is highly dependent on your data.

By contrast, Apple is positioning itself as a services company that is offering a variety of subscriptions. The tech giant is also promoting its key differentiator from Android is its superior security and privacy. iOS 14 claims to offer many enhancements and features that protect its users, unlike its competition. But is it enough to live up to its claims of being the privacy-focused OS? 

Hiding from Big Tech

The greatest trick Google and Facebook ever pulled was convincing the world that privacy must be sacrificed to enhance the user experience. But good old-fashioned greed has seen both of the tech behemoths flirt dangerously into creepy territory. Users do not want to be tracked across every website and app they visit. 

People are wising up to a handful of companies selling their browsing data to the highest bidder and using their own beliefs against them.

Apple's solution is an opt-in privacy feature where companies will need to obtain permission from users before it can track them across multiple apps and websites. The announcement caused concern from the usual suspects such as Facebook and Snapchat Ad Businesses. Apple has since delayed the feature's release until 2021 to give companies additional time to comply with the new rules. But make no mistake, big changes are on the horizon.

iOS 14 also enables users to choose exactly which apps can access photos on an individual basis from the photo reel on their iPhone. Apple appears to be moving away from the dated all-or-nothing approach to privacy.

Bolster your mobile security

Many people reading this will have the same password for their Amazon, eBay, NETFLIX, and PayPal accounts, not to mention a long list of online stores. The good news for hackers is that they only need to breach one website, and they can access all of the top online services and stores. iOS 14 is tackling these issues with a new password monitoring feature. 

Users are now reminded which passwords are easy to guess or being used too frequently across multiple services. 

Remember when TikTok was caught red-handed copying data from your clipboard? iOS 14 has solved that problem by notifying users when an app takes information without your consent. 

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't after you. Edward Snowden's surveillance revelations revealed that governments could access the microphone and camera on our phones if you become a person of interest. Hackers also try to exploit the cameras and microphones on smartphones to blackmail unsuspecting users when they visit adult sites.

Apple has also attempted to offer peace of mind to users by placing a small dot by the signal strength meter in the top right-hand corner of the screen or when you enter the control centre. A green dot means the app is accessing your camera and an orange dot informs users that the microphone is being used.  

Location, location, location

After accumulating pages of mobile apps that are seldom used, many are also beginning to question why the vast majority of these apps need to know their exact location at all times. With iOS 14, there is an alternative option to share your "approximate location" with an app instead. 

As we become increasingly reliant on free wifi to keep data costs down, iOS 14 also puts a stop to wifi tracking by generating a random MAC address each time you connect.

Two years have passed since Tim Cook said, "We at Apple believe that privacy is a fundamental human right." He also accused tech companies that collect vast volumes of user data of engaging in surveillance. As well as sharing a belief that they should de-identify customer data or not collect it at all, he also unmasked uncomfortable privacy concerns from our primary devices.

There is an argument that the Achilles heel of Apple's biggest competitors is their reliance on data. Tim Cook knew that collecting real-time location, contacts, purchases, browsing history, and unique identifiers from smartphones was the most valuable asset to other manufacturers. Maybe this is the real reason that iOS 14 is positioning itself as a privacy-focused OS as the winds of change blow through the industry.

How does the privacy level of iOS 14 compare to Android?

Android is often unfairly compared to the Wild West when it comes to privacy and security. If you dare to step away from the age-old Apple vs. Android debate, they both have much more in common than many are prepared to admit.

Android 11 offers similar privacy updates around the microphone and camera on its smartphones and the location of the device.

However, the bigger news is about an attitude change from Google, Apple, and smartphone users. We are collectively questioning why app developers and tech companies demand full access to photos, unnecessary data, location, and every click or swipe across the web.

Ultimately, both iOS 14 and Android are making the right moves around data protection and privacy. The only big loser in all this is Facebook. But you will have to wait until 2021 to see how this story pans out.

Comments

Jamie Ratliff
Jamie Ratliff
prefix 1 year ago
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