Tech

Why iOS 14.4 has Facebook up in arms

Apple's iOS 14.4 update is coming soon and with some significant changes to how it treats privacy.

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A new iOS update imminent with a slew of new features, including one pretty pivotal change to the way Apple monitors and informs you about your personal privacy.

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Privacy is an area of frequent concern from Apple, but it's not often that tweaks to privacy features attract the ire of tech giants like Facebook. In the case of iOS 14.4, however that's exactly what happened when the social media giant placed a full-page newspaper ad criticizing Apple's iOS 14.4 updates.

So, what's the big deal with iOS 14.4?

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Apple's new privacy feature centers on one aspect of data collection in particular: web tracking. The feature, called App Tracking Transparency, will monitor the ways in which apps trace you across sites and services and update users when it happens.

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Where the feature really starts to become game-changing is in its decision to allow users to block web tracking with the touch of a button.

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In a new prompt that began appearing in beta version of 14.4, users can choose whether they want to allow the app to continue tracking them or "Ask app not to track."

Though the ability to control web tracking will likely be welcomed by users, some advertisers and developers have railed against the changes, saying it could hinder their business models.

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Facebook went as far as to take out full-page newspaper ads warning that the changes would adversely affect small businesses. Apple, however, says the changes are part of an effort to encourage Facebook to be more transparent about their data collection practices.

Though technically bolstering user privacy, there's a chance that the feature my have some unintended side-effects. For instance, there's a possibility advertisers may turn to riskier, banned practices like fingerprinting.

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Fingerprinting involves collecting multiple data points from a device which are then used to give each device a unique identifier. Those sources of data, like IP addresses, operating systems, plugin data, and time stamps, making it potentially more intrusive than other forms of web-tracking.

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Needless to say, an increased emphasis on fingerprinting over current methods of tracking web behavior would fall short of Apple's commitment to bolstering user privacy, making the feature somewhat of a gamble on Apple's part (and the part of its users).

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2021

There's no official arrival date for iOS 14.4, but it will likely be released early this year.

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