6 ways Apple protects your privacy in iOS 8

One of the most interesting reports I read this weekend looks at some of the ways Apple aims to keep your private life private, at least within the current dystopian regulatory environment.

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For your protection

Developer Luis Abreu has an in-depth look at Apple's much-improved privacy and security protections in iOS 8. I've summarized six interesting highlights.

Apple probably sees its focus on privacy and security as a competitive advantage against Android. An Apple wireless software engineer states:

"We don’t think it’s good enough to be sort of private with your data stored somewhere else, we think it’s important to take privacy very seriously."

Apple's privacy solution extends across iOS 8 -- from how you access and control privacy features, to the way in which key data is held in a Secure Enclave hosted on your device. What follows are a few less-widely-known elements to this.

While In Use

iOS 8 apps should request a new While [app is] In Use permission type in order to access your Location data. This means apps accessing Location while not currently active will be revealed through a warning message. You can easily revoke their permissions.

Contacts

The way apps access Contacts has changed. In order to select a single contact you no longer need to give an app access to your entire contact list, giving iOS 8 users more control over what contact information is shared with apps.

Child protection

In line with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), iOS 8 apps made for Kids must now have a privacy policy and "as a general rule" do not collect any form of personally identifiable information. This means advertising behaviors, location, contacts, images and more should not be gathered by a Kid-friendly app.

Keychain

Keychain and TouchID integrate with the Secure Enclave introduced in the iPhone 5S. There's a host of privacy enhancements to these features in iOS 8, not least the facility to use Touch ID to allow app access only to the device owner -- which should help you keep your banking apps a little more secure.

HomeKit

Apple has already put thought into security and privacy for HomeKit, its solution for the Internet of Things. "Security and Privacy are of the upmost priority in HomeKit," explains Abreu. "Everything from pairing to communication is done securely." And this also means your at-home activities aren't constantly being monitored in order to target you with ads. Among a host of security/privacy protections, HomeKit APIs can only be used in the foreground to ensure user control.

HealthKit

Apple's HealthKit should protect your valuable health data. Right now, when you use a health-related app, your data is stored by the app, so you have little control of that information. The thing is this is precisely the sort of data health insurers, banks and advertisers want access to for customer profiling. Apple's solution is to encrypt much of this data and enable iOS users to control what information is shared, with whom and where it goes. Apple has made privacy controls in HealthKit "very granular" for users.

Health app and Medical ID

Another new feature in iOS 8, Heath app, lets you manage and control access to more than 60 health-related data types. It also lets you populate the Medical ID app that offers personal information about the user that can be accessed using the Emergency Call screen in the event of accident.

Read more on all of this in Abreu's interesting report.

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