A new privacy function called “private relay” which can help to hide users’ web browsing behaviour from Apple, internet providers and advertisers, was among the host of new privacy protections that were unveiled by apple Inc. at its recently held annual conference for software developers.
There has been pressure on Apple to reduce down the level of tracking it does of user data.
However the company has decided not to roll out the “private relay” feature for its users in China, one of the largest markets of the company, because of regulatory issues. This is the latest compromise that has been made in recent times by the iPhone marker in China which accounts for 15 per cent of the company’s revenues. The Chinese government employs an extensive surveillance system on its residents and strictly controls the internet within its territory.
Users in a number of other countries, including Saudi Arabia and Belarus, will not be able to access this new function.
According to the company, the “private relay” feature sends traffic to a server maintained by Apple where the IP address of the traffic is removed which makes it undetectable. The traffic then travel through a second server operated by a third party where a temporary IP address is allotted to the online user and them the traffic is sent onto the destination website.
The use of an outside party means “no single entity can identify both who a user is and which sites they visit”, says Apple.
This feature will not allow advertisers to also pinpoint a person’s location using his or her IP address, say experts.
There were no comments on the China issue for this feature available from Apple.
The company however informed that the relay service will not be available in Belarus, Colombia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Uganda and the Philippines as well as China.
It is likely that this feature can be used by users in the other markets sometime later this year.
A number of new privacy features included in the latest iPhone operating system, iOS 15, were also announced by Apple.
These features will enable iPhone users to track the apps that are collecting their data and there are some apps such as Mail will hide IP addresses in order to block tracking.
It is likely that social media companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter would face difficulties with these new features because central to their business model is customised advertising based on user data.
(Adapted from BBC.com)