Apple teases new tracking protections and an approximate location feature in iOS 14

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At the Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, Apple announced a range of new privacy features that will be bundled into iOS 14, including new protections against user tracking on apps and websites, as well as incremental updates to a range of pre-existing systems.

One of the most significant changes is in how iOS 14 will handle location tracking. iOS already lets you block specific apps from collecting data about where you are, but the new version will also allow you to share approximate location data. That might allow a maps program to show you the right general region, without knowing the specific building you’re in.

The new operating system also includes new transparency measures to prevent apps from using cameras or microphones without a user’s knowledge. Under iOS 14, iPhones will show an orange dot in the upper right corner of the screen whenever the microphone or camera is activated, similar to the green camera light built into Apple’s laptops.

The most significant change is the new disclosure Apple will mandate from app developers. Under the new system, app developers will say which types of data the app collects, labeling specific information that could be used to track users across the web. (Presenters compared the disclosures to the nutrition labels on packaged groceries.) The information is entirely self-reported, so the system won’t completely rule out foul play — but it should provide significantly more information on data-collection practices than most users are accustomed to.

iOS 14 is expected this fall.

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