• September 30, 2020 12:47 am

Reporting From Delhi

Privacy matters 

ByNabeel Ahmed

Aug 17, 2020

Even as Apple’s ios 14 is being trolled for introducing long-existing features on Android, one cannot miss the lengths the company has gone to ensure data security and privacy of users 

So far, 2020 has been an eventful year for the tech world. In just over half a year, some of the most awaited gadgets in the tech world have been unveiled. Take, for instance, the budget segment in the smartphone market: the iPhone SE, the OnePlus Nord and now the Pixel 4a are all making waves and are in a way shaping the future of the market. But despite all the leaps and bounds being made in the hardware department, the ever-present question of security and transparency in the use of user data collected by tech giants is still at large.

Be it infamous Facebook’s scandalous leak through Cambridge Analytica or the use of location services provided by different apps to apprehend and curb protests during the Black Lives Matter protests in the US, tech has become a tool in the hands of the authorities to stomp out protests. Even back home, Delhi Police used new tech like Automated Facial Recognition System (AFRS) to track down protestors during the anti-CAA protests last year and used location services to track down rioters in cases related to the Delhi riots in February.

This brings to question the competency of tech giants when it comes to the way they handle and share user data with the authorities and third parties. And if one were to look a little deeper into the world of conspiracy theories, allegations of tech giants accessing smartphone mics and cameras without consent or knowledge of the user are plentiful. This then poses the question as to why operating systems that we use on smartphones are not as secure as we would like them to be.

Apple finally seems to have understood the mood of its consumer base and is all set to launch the ios 14 in September along with the much talked about iPhone 12 and Apple watch. But how does ios 14 fare any better than other previous iterations and Android when it comes to security?

For starters, Apple’s ios, since the launch of the iPhone, has been seen as the benchmark that other smartphone operating systems have tried to beat, in terms of security. And since then it has only improved.

Now with the launch of the ios 14, Apple is introducing a host of features that are sure to make security-conscious consumers happy.

To put to rest theories that a smartphone’s microphone or even its camera can be accessed remotely, without the end-users’ knowledge. Apple is all set to introduce a feature in the next iteration of ios wherein a yellow and an orange dot in the notch of the iPhone will inform users whenever an app accesses the phone’s camera or the microphone.

Similarly, when it comes to location services, which became a big talking point when the government made the Arogya Setu app mandatory, Apple is introducing the option for users to toggle between the precise and approximate options. What it means is that users can  choose when and whether an application can access their precise location. This feature especially is a great addition, as in the past there have been people who did not want to make use of a lot of apps that have either been mandated or were excellent to use because they did not ensure security against location tracking. And these aren’t even the most significant changes.

As Apple realises the importance of data security, will Android catch up soon? // Photo: Getty

The most significant change in terms of security that the new ios has in store is the ability to choose what data users want apps to access. This comes in handy, especially when one looks deeper into how apps function and collect data from smartphones. When using an app, users allow it to access specific data points in the gadget, for example when using a video trimming app; it will ask for access to camera roll, when given permission to do so, the app has access to all the photos and videos stored on the device. However, with ios 14, users can select the specific photo or video that they want the app to have access to while denying it access to other photos. This will immensely reduce the chances of photo leaks and ensure better security.

A lot of people are oblivious to the way apps work and the way they can pose a threat to users security and privacy, Apple, with its approach of providing its users with simple and seamless user experience, has once again paved the way for users to be able to better protect their data. And it may be understandable why a lot of reviewers and netizens had a field day coming up with memes poking fun at Apple for introducing features in its ios that have existed on its rival operating system, Android for a long time. The fact of the matter is that when it comes to data security and privacy, there is a lot that Android can take out of Apple’s book.

(Cover: Apple ios 14 update comes with a  bunch of security features. Photo: Getty)