Apple introduced a number of privacy and security upgrades in iOS 15, including on-device voice recognition, a code generator for two-factor authentication, and a messaging feature that hides your network location.
Yesterday’s Apple event (September 14) only spent about 15 seconds on new privacy features, mentioning voice recognition, email masking, and some anti-tracking features. But there’s a lot more to come with the iOS 15 update, which will be available for download next Monday (September 20).
Here are some of the most important iOS 15 privacy improvements planned for your iPhone.
Voice recognition on the device
It really is a breakthrough. Speech normally needs to be processed in the cloud, which means the phone (or smart home device) needs to upload raw audio files to an online server farm for analysis and transcription.
But the process can create a privacy risk on the server side. Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft got into hot water on this in 2019, as humans sometimes have to listen to audio to improve speech recognition. (Apple says this setting will now be done entirely on the device.)
Apple is taking servers out of the equation. For some widely spoken languages, all analysis, transcription and response will be done directly over the phone. Your question to Siri should never leave your iPhone.
You will need to download language packs for this to happen, however. According to Apple, on-device voice recognition will be available on iOS 15 launch day, September 20, “in German (Germany), English (Australia, Canada, India, United Kingdom, United States), Spanish (Spain, Mexico, United States), French (France), Japanese (Japan), Mandarin Chinese (Mainland China) and Cantonese (Hong Kong). “
No word yet on the other countries in which these languages are spoken natively, such as Austria, Belgium, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland, Taiwan or most of the Americas.
As you can imagine, on-device voice recognition requires significant processing power, which is why it will only work on devices with A12 Bionic chipset or better, i.e. iPhone XS and XR or later. Language packs will also take up space, although with a minimum of 128GB of storage on the iPhone 13, that shouldn’t be a big deal.
Mail privacy protection
Email privacy protection, as Apple calls it, is an optional feature that neutralizes the tracking images that online marketers often place in rich-format email messages.
Normally, when you open one of these messages, it calls back the marketer’s servers to grab the embedded images. This process gives marketers your Internet Protocol (IP) address and tells them that you opened the message.
Specialized tracking pixels, invisible to the user, create links that can follow you around the web and tell the marketer what type of device you are using and where you are geographically.
Apple will reverse this practice by first opening the message and pre-hiding the images on its own servers, then delivering the message to you. When you open the message, it will call back Apple’s own servers for images, not marketers’ servers.
Marketers will receive Apple’s own random IP addresses instead of yours, and all emails will be flagged as having been opened, poisoning the tracking data with a flood of unnecessary information.
Understandably, email marketers are worried.
“People using email marketing tools should be prepared to rely less on open email data,” online marketing giant Constant Contact said in an updated blog post yesterday. “In addition to not knowing if, when, and how a subscriber opened your email, some email marketing features that rely on that data, such as automatically sending a follow-up email to non-openers, will no longer be so reliable. “
Improved smart prevention of tracking
Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention gets a similar upgrade so that it prevents web servers from seeing your IP address, removing the simpler method of tracking web users.
Two-factor authentication code generator
iOS 15 will be able to generate one-time passcodes for sites and services requiring two-factor authentication (2FA).
As with Authy, Google Authenticator, or other authenticator apps, you’ll be able to “check in” to sites like Facebook, Google, Dropbox, and dozens of others, then generate temporary 30-second 2FA codes right on your device. telephone. (It’s much safer doing it this way than texting yourself one-time codes over open air.)
The difference is that no third-party apps will be needed and you won’t have to type anything.
As Apple says, “You can configure verification codes under Passwords in settings – no need to download an additional app. Once configured, verification codes will automatically fill out when you log into the site.”
Application privacy report
An app privacy report will give you an overview of which apps have accessed your camera, location, contacts, camera, and microphone over the past week. It should also tell you which websites your apps are contacting in the background.
This feature will not be available on the launch day of iOS 15, but will come in a later update.
Secure Paste doesn’t seem so important, but when you copy and paste something from one application to another, the information is temporarily stored in unencrypted form on an operating system’s “clipboard”. Other applications can often access the contents of the clipboard.
Apple added a warning in iOS 14 that stated which apps were accessing the clipboard, but in iOS15 it is completely overhauling the process. No application will be able to read the contents of the clipboard unless you actively paste the contents of the clipboard into that specific application.
Temporary location sharing buttons built into iOS 15 apps will allow you to “share your location just once, with no further access after that session,” according to Apple’s iOS 15 documentation.
ICloud Plus features
Three other optional features are not strictly part of iOS 15, but are intended for paid users of iCloud or iCloud Plus, as Apple is renaming it. You will have to pay extra for these.
ICloud Private Relay
iCloud Private Relay is a VPN-like proxy service that will encrypt your data and hide your IP address and DNS queries when you use Safari, allowing you to browse the web relatively anonymously and quite securely. This feature will debut in beta alongside iOS 15, so there may be issues.
Private Relay is not a real VPN as it will not forward all of your network connections, only those established through Safari, but it will send all your Safari webpage requests to Apple first. Apple will then encrypt them and send them back to at least two proxy servers before sending them to their final destination.
Oddly, Apple will outsource your Safari DNS lookups to a third party, which will match your website requests with the actual IP addresses of your destination. This way, as Macworld explains, only Apple will know your real IP address, and only the anonymous third party will know the real IP address of your destination.
Hide my email
Hiding my email is easier to explain. As Apple says, this “allows you to create unique, random email addresses that are forwarded to your personal inbox so you can send and receive emails without having to share your real email address.” .
Several third-party companies have been offering this service for a long time, but Apple is making it readily available to tens of millions of people who have never heard of it before. However, the Hide My Email feature will not be available in the Mail app until a later update.
HomeKit Secure Video
HomeKit Secure Video encrypts the video stream from your connected security cameras and baby monitors so that even Apple cannot see it.
Apple ID privacy changes
Likewise, Apple ID adds a few features borrowed from password managers and social media accounts. These features are free.
This feature allows you to designate one or more people as trusted contacts who can verify your identity. If you lose your Apple password, Apple can contact these people to help you reset the password.
Most of the best password managers with this feature require trusted contacts to have accounts as well. We’re pretty sure Apple will also require your trusted contacts to have Apple IDs.
Digital Legacy extends that trust after your death. Again, you will designate certain people as trusted contacts, but in this case, Apple will grant them access to your “Apple account and personal information on death.”
Password managers will trigger similar functionality not only when you are dead, but also appear to be incapable, such as when you haven’t logged in for weeks. We’ll see if Apple does, too, but we’ll have to wait, as Digital Legacy is slated for a later update.
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