Apple begins publishing new app privacy labels

New privacy labels created by Apple for every app in the firm’s App Store have gone live for the first time as part of a scheme to improve transparency around data collection.

The new labels will appear on the product pages of every app available to download to an Apple device, including the tech giant’s own software, in what the company says is a new, easy-to-view summary of an app’s data practices.

The labels, which have been likened to the nutritional information found on food packaging, will show the kind of personal information an app gathers and why it is wanted by the developer.

App developers were asked to submit their privacy labels to Apple by last week ahead of the start of the rollout.

They will eventually appear on all apps across the stores dedicated to Apple’s different devices and operating systems – iOS, iPadOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS.

Apple has also updated the privacy section of its website, further detailing how the new system will work.

Apple's new privacy labels for apps
The new labels show how and why data is collected by an app (Apple/PA)

“Every one of the more than 1.8 million apps on the App Store is required to follow strict privacy guidelines and report how it uses your data,” the tech company said.

“And every app is rigorously reviewed by a team of experts at Apple.

“When you’re checking out an app, you’ll get a summary of privacy practices to help decide if it works for you. Apps you choose to download need your permission to access information like photos or location – and you can always change your mind about what you share.”

It also confirmed additional privacy measures which will be introduced on the iPhone’s iOS operating system and on the iPad next year.

“Starting in early 2021, iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 will require developers to get your permission before tracking your activity across other companies’ apps and websites for ads or data brokers,” Apple said.

The new labels system was first announced in June at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).

At the time, Apple said the new section would offer key information about the data it collects and an accessible version of the main points of its privacy policy.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) hailed the introduction of the labels as a victory for consumer choice and data privacy.

However, Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp criticised the new label scheme ahead of the rollout, arguing that it is too broad and as a result fails to distinguish some developer efforts to protect privacy.

“Our teams have submitted our privacy labels to Apple but Apple’s template does not shed light on the lengths apps may go to protect sensitive information,” WhatsApp said.

“While WhatsApp cannot see people’s messages or precise location, we’re stuck using the same broad labels with apps that do.”

Apple has said the scheme will evolve over time as the company learns what works best for both developers and users.

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