Apple has once again exerted its control over its mobile operating system to limit data collection in the name of improved user privacy.
During its WWDC event this week Apple unveiled a single sign-in function, which is pitched as a privacy-focused alternative to Google and Facebook logins.
The “Sign in with Apple” function will allow users to log in to apps without creating a new username and password — similar to existing “log in with Facebook” and “log in with Google” options.
The big difference is Apple says the feature will stop third parties gathering the user’s personal data.
“Instead of using a social account or filling out forms, verifying email addresses or choosing passwords, customers can simply use their Apple ID to authenticate and Apple will protect users’ privacy by providing developers with a unique random ID,” the company said.
“Even in cases where developers choose to ask for a name and email address, users have the option to keep their email address private and share a unique random email address instead.”
Developers who offer sign-in with Google or Facebook will be required to offer “Sign in with Apple” starting from the release of iOS 13 later this year.
The company said it will not use “Sign in with Apple” to profile users or their activity in apps.
Apple has been positioning itself as more trustworthy than the online advertising giants Google and Facebook, which have made billions by selling advertising targeted on users’ profiles and behaviour.
“Unlike Facebook and Google, Apple makes the majority of its revenue selling devices, not user data, so it is in a unique position to offer privacy as a premium to its users,” says Peter Wells, tech columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Apple argues that privacy should be a human right and consumers should not have to sacrifice privacy in exchange for convenience.
Prior to WWDC, “quiet log-ins” like the ones offered by Facebook and Google were identified by the company as at odds with its privacy stance. Its ongoing product developments will continue to attempt to break down what the company calls an “ecosystem of surveillance online” by preventing as much tracking as possible.
For example, Apple’s Intelligence Tracking Prevention feature, first introduced in 2017, uses machine learning to classify cookies and limits the amount of time they can be used to track a user in the Safari browser. It was updated last year to also prevent social plugins — which enable “Like” buttons and comment fields that use a Facebook log-in on other sites — from tracking users.