Last update: April 2021

4 mins to read - 2021/04/30

What Does the Apple iOS 14.5 Update Mean for Device User Privacy?

There’s a lot of talk around the industry about Apple’s new iOS 14.5 update which has just rolled out. It’s offering a lot of exciting new features, including enhancements to Siri and the ability to unlock your iPhone from your Apple Watch. But the real game-changer that has developers and mobile marketers all aflutter is the iOS 14.5’s bold new step towards greater protections for users’ data privacy: the App Tracking Transparency feature. How exactly does this feature work, and why do key players in Silicon Valley – especially Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg – have their backs up about it?

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ios 14.5 privacy

What Is App Tracking Transparency?

Apple’s dedication to the data privacy of its users first started making waves in January 2021. When they announced the advent of App Tracking Transparency (ATT) with the launch of the iOS 14, some app developers called it a complete shift in the paradigm around user data and revenues. ATT essentially means that, before apps can track user data in order to send them more targeted ads, they need to ask for user consent:

“On iOS 14, apps will be required to ask users for permission to track them across apps and websites owned by other companies. Later this year, the App Store will help users understand apps’ privacy practices, and you’ll need to enter your privacy practice details into App Store Connect for display on your App Store product page.”

Much like Apple requires apps to gain user consent before sending them push notifications, apps on iOS now also have to obtain user consent before tracking their IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers) and selling their data to 3rd parties. The iOS 14.5 take on privacy will likely mean apps will have to start sending a pre-permission IDFA request – similar to how they send pre-permission notifications to soften the user up for the OS request.

Furthermore, in Settings, users will be able to check which apps have already requested permission to track them. Users will be able to opt-in and opt-out of apps tracking them at any time, if they change their minds.

iOS 14.5 data privacy system request
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Why Is Mark Zuckerberg Upset?

Facebook is known for making its billions of dollars in yearly revenues by selling targeted ads. They are also famously not fussy about harvesting user data through inethical or illegal means. This has been seen in their involvement in the Cambridge Analytica scandal and another scandal where they were taking user data from Zoom apps installed on their mobile devices. They were recently even discovered to allow businesses the option to send targeted ads for smoking, alcohol, and weight-loss products to children.

Now, with Apple giving users the opportunity to opt out of having advertisers track their data, that hits Facebook where it hurts the most: their wallet. Zuckerberg has responded that the iOS 14.5 unrolling of ATT for greater user privacy is actually a PR move to increase their competitiveness in the industry. However, ultimately Apple has stated that it believes users should have a say in what happens to their data. And it’s likely that Google will follow suit with making Google Ad Identifiers opt-in for Android users. And if Facebook’s business model is incapable of surviving such a shift in the market, then perhaps they should just chalk themselves up as another sacrifice to the Invisible Hand.

apple watch iOS 14.5 privacy

Other Features of iOS 14.5, Privacy, Apple Watch, and More

Apple has many other exciting features up its sleeve as well. Some of them are self-contained within the iPhone. However, some are features that tie the iPhone in with other Apple devices and applications. So it’s interesting to see how the iOS 14.5 update will succeed in expanding Apple’s ecosystem.

Apple Watch

This new feature lets users unlock their iPhones through their Apple Watch. Apple conceived of this feature specifically for the COVID-19 age, so that people wearing facemasks can still unlock their device using Face ID. If their Apple Watch is unlocked, they can simply glance at their iPhone and they will receive haptic feedback from their Watch that the iPhone is unlocked. This feature works with iPhone X and up, and Apple Watch Series 3 and up.

New Enhancements for Siri

Users can now select what type of voice Siri speaks in when they set up the virtual assistant feature. In addition to having different, more diverse styles of voice, Siri also uses cutting-edge Neural Text to Speech technology, so it sounds more like human speech than previous iterations. Siri can also support Group FaceTime sessions, as well as announce incoming messages and calls through AirPods or other compatible headphones.

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New Emojis

For fans of emojis, Apple has launched a few new ones for iOS 14.5. In addition to offering more diverse options for the kissing and couples emojis – both in terms of ethnicity and romantic orientation – there are a few more fun emojis to play around with: a heart on fire, a face with spiral eyes, a woman with a beard, and more.

Apple Maps

A new feature with Apple Maps allows users to report incidents, such as traffic jams or collisons, in real-time to the app. They can inform Siri, and in turn Siri would warn other drivers taking the same route of the incident up ahead. Crucially, this feature allows for hands-free reporting, so as not to endanger users by encouraging them to use their phone while driving.

Other Features

Apple has a mishmash of other features for their 14.5 update. A few of these include AirTags to help users find their wallet, keys, etc. in the Find My app; voice-controlled navigation in English and Spanish; improved 5G, and more. To learn more about other exciting features Apple has in store, read their recent newsroom post about iOS 14.5.

If you’d like to know how OpenBack’s mobile engagement platform can help your mobile app stay on the right side of data privacy laws, while giving you the best Return on Push Notifications the industry can offer, get in touch with one of our experts for a demo.


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