It seems that the stars chose the month of May to put Apple in an uncomfortable position in relation to its own defense without concessions from privacy User: We have already had customer processes claiming that the company sells data from iTunes, game discoveries that share data that not even its developers know exists, and iOS features being leveraged by apps to capture consumer information.
Now the Wall Street Journal published a report that, once again, addresses the growing problem of apps in the App Store which share user data without users knowing it. Joanna Stern and Mark Secada tested 80 apps from the store – almost all featured in the “Apps We Love” section – and found that everyone but one uses trackers (third-party tools to capture user data and thereby target advertising to the user).
One of the apps investigated by the pair is aimed at children: this is the Curious World, which, as discovered by the report, collects information such as the name and age of the small user, as well as the books selected by him – sending all this information to Facebook . At no time do developers evidence the collection and sending of this data.
The report then contacted sources within Apple itself, who guaranteed the prospect of a change: according to them, Apple will implement new privacy controls for applications and reduce the tracking and data collection in children’s apps. Some of these new features may be announced at the opening presentation of WWDC19.
The idea is a good one, but perhaps as or more important than limiting data capture is to implement a zero tolerance policy with apps that don’t reveal what types of data they are collecting and with whom they are sharing it. If we are on the internet, after all, it is because we know more or less how it works – this completely anonymous browsing business is basically a utopia. At least, then, that we know where our information is going.
Developers ask for new APIs
Meanwhile, another controversy develops in parallel: 17 developers responsible for child control apps, such as FamilyTime and OurPact, are putting pressure on Apple to create new APIs related to the feature Usage Time, a native iOS tool that allows parents and guardians to limit and monitor the use of iGadgets of the little ones.
According to the developers, since the introduction of the feature on iOS 12, Apple has deliberately hindered the functioning of third-party applications, either by banning their functions or even removing them completely from the App Store. A survey carried out in the last month by New York Times revealed that Apple “restricted or removed” 11 of the store’s 17 most popular child control apps.
Apple’s justification for such an event was that it was part of a larger initiative by the company to disable applications that abused developers’ business certificates, which we have already covered extensively here. The developers, however, were not satisfied, saying that many of them do not even use these certificates to guarantee the functioning of their apps.
Enter the scene Tony Fadell, Apple’s former strong name and considered the “father of the iPod”. Taking the developers’ side, Fadell suggested that Apple create new APIs related to the Time of Use feature that could be used by third-party apps – which, in theory, would allow users to return to using the solutions third-party and that the apps would return to work fully, but with features subordinated to the very structure of iOS.
The developers, excited by the idea, put up a website asking Apple to follow Fadell’s suggestion, detailing a proposal for how these APIs would work – Apple wouldn’t even have to work on developing an idea, since the developers themselves have already thought of all.
They say the move would be beneficial for everyone: parents, who would have a wide range of child control products to choose from; children, who would have access to safe and effective applications; Apple itself, which would ensure that apps would meet its security standards; and, finally, the developers, who would have the necessary tools to continue developing their products and profiting from them.
For now, Apple has not commented on the matter – the expectation is that the company will give some signal in relation to this at WWDC19, either at the opening conference or in any of the sessions for developers.