What Do 4 Messaging Apps Get From You? Read The iOS Privacy App Labels

ios privacy app labels
The iOS privacy app labels, also known as nutrition labels for privacy disclosures, have been officially launched for all iOS device owners running the latest version of iOS 14

The events of 2020 saw an unprecedented surge of digital users. According to Datareportal’s July 2020 report, more than half of the world now uses social media and over 5 billion are unique mobile users. In Singapore alone, the number of smartphone users is estimated to take up more than 90 percent of its overall population, or a staggering 4.65 million.

It is only fitting that with this increase in online and mobile users, the discussion on data privacy also takes centerstage. In particular, we’re becoming more aware at how these seemingly inconspicuous apps we’ve come to depend on for daily tasks are consuming, collecting, and sharing our data.

Also Read: My Phone Was Spying On Me, So I Tracked Down The Surveillants

The iOS privacy app labels – a step towards the right direction

Sometime last year, Apple announced that it was planning to include privacy labels to apps in its App Store and now this promise has come to pass. Under the Apple platform, all developer apps including Apple’s own programs, are now mandated to share how user data may be collected. These labels are not only limited to the iOS platform but across all of Apple’s platforms, including iPadOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS. Additionally, developers have to ensure that these labels are kept up to date and precise each time a new update is submitted.

If you’re an iPhone or iPad user, the next time you attempt to download an app from the App Store, you will see a new App Privacy section where you can view how the data from that app might be utilised to track you as well as how that data will be collected and associated with your identity.

Apps either have to comply to this new mandate or they risk losing the capacity to update their apps. In the instance that an app doesn’t have an App Store product page because it cannot be taken down (such as the Messages app), Apple mentions that it will be furnishing privacy label details on the web.

Three categories of iOS privacy app labels

Apple has organised the data collection information into three categories:

  • Data used to track you – this lets you know which kind of data may be used to track you across various apps and websites
  • Data linked to you – this lets you know the kind of data that may be collected and associated with your identity
  • Data not linked to you – this lets you know which kind of data may be collected but not associated with your identity

Apart from these main categories, there’s another layer of privacy label you shouldn’t miss. If you click the See Details link right next to App Privacy, you’ll discover what particular data the app gathers and links about its users pertaining to targeted ads, product personalisation, and app functionality.

ios privacy app labels
The iOS privacy app labels seem like an awesome benefit to the user, but some app developers are not quite happy with this new provision.

Also Read: 15 Best Tools For Your Windows 10 Privacy Settings Setup

iOS privacy app labels found on four popular messaging apps

To illustrate what kind of “nutrition labels” you can find on your downloaded apps, here are examples on four popular messaging apps:

ios privacy app labels

Signal

None. It is worth noting that Signal only keeps your phone number, and doesn’t connect that to your identity.

iMessage

  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Search history
  • Device ID

WhatsApp

  • Device ID
  • User ID
  • Advertising Data
  • Purchase History
  • Coarse Location
  • Phone Number
  • Email Address
  • Contacts
  • Product Interaction
  • Crash Data
  • Performance Data
  • Other Diagnostic Data
  • Payment Info
  • Customer Support
  • Product Interaction
  • Other User Content

Facebook Messenger

From this list it’s clear enough to see which messaging app collects the most amount of data.

Third-Party Advertising

  • PURCHASES – Purchase History
  • FINANCIAL INFO – Other Financial Info
  • LOCATION – Precise Location, Coarse Location
  • CONTACT INFO – Physical Address, Email Address, Name, Phone Number, Other User Contact Info
  • CONTACTS – Contacts
  • USER CONTENT – Photos or Videos, Gameplay Content, Other User Content
  • SEARCH HISTORY – Search History
  • BROWSING HISTORY – Browsing History
  • IDENTIFIERS – User ID, Device ID
  • USAGE DATA – Product Interaction, Advertising Data, Other Usage Data
  • DIAGNOSTICS – Crash Data, Performance Data, Other Diagnostic Data
  • OTHER DATA – Other Data Types

Developer’s Advertising or Marketing

  • PURCHASES – Purchase History
  • FINANCIAL INFO – Other Financial Info
  • LOCATION – Precise Location, Coarse Location
  • CONTACT INFO – Physical Address, Email Address, Name, Phone Number, Other User Contact Info
  • CONTACTS – Contacts
  • USER CONTENT – Photos or Videos, Gameplay Content, Other User Content
  • SEARCH HISTORY – Search History
  • BROWSING HISTORY – Browsing History
  • IDENTIFIERS – User ID, Device ID
  • USAGE DATA – Product Interaction, Advertising Data, Other Usage Data
  • DIAGNOSTICS – Crash Data, Performance Data, Other Diagnostic Data
  • OTHER DATA – Other Data Types

Analytics

  • HEALTH & FITNESS – Health, Fitness
  • PURCHASES – Purchase History
  • FINANCIAL INFO – Payment Info, Other Financial Info
  • LOCATION – Precise Location, Coarse Location
  • CONTACT INFO – Physical Address, Email Address, Name, Phone Number, Other User Contact Info
  • CONTACTS – Contacts
  • USER CONTENT – Photos or Videos, Audio Data, Gameplay Content, Customer Support, Other User Content
  • SEARCH HISTORY – Search History
  • BROWSING HISTORY – Browsing History
  • IDENTIFIERS – User ID, Device ID
  • USAGE DATA – Product Interaction, Advertising Data, Other Usage Data
  • SENSITIVE INFO – Sensitive Info
  • DIAGNOSTICS – Crash Data, Performance Data, Other Diagnostic Data
  • OTHER DATA – Other Data Types

Product Personalization

  • PURCHASES – Purchase History
  • FINANCIAL INFO – Other Financial Info
  • LOCATION – Precise Location, Coarse Location
  • CONTACT INFO – Physical Address, Email Address, Name, Phone Number, Other User Contact Info
  • CONTACTS – Contacts
  • USER CONTENT – Photos or Videos, Gameplay Content, Other User Content
  • SEARCH HISTORY – Search History
  • BROWSING HISTORY – Browsing History
  • IDENTIFIERS – User ID, Device ID
  • USAGE DATA – Product Interaction, Advertising Data, Other Usage Data
  • SENSITIVE INFO – Sensitive Info
  • DIAGNOSTICS – Crash Data, Performance Data, Other Diagnostic Data
  • OTHER DATA – Other Data Types

App Functionality

  • HEALTH & FITNESS – Health, Fitness
  • PURCHASES – Purchase History
  • FINANCIAL INFO – Payment Info, Credit Info, Other Financial Info
  • LOCATION – Precise Location, Coarse Location
  • CONTACT INFO – Physical Address, Email Address, Name, Phone Number, Other User Contact Info
  • CONTACTS – Contacts
  • USER CONTENT – Emails or Text Messages, Photos or Videos, Audio Data, Gameplay Content, Customer Support, Other User Content
  • SEARCH HISTORY – Search History
  • BROWSING HISTORY – Browsing History
  • IDENTIFIERS – User ID, Device ID
  • USAGE DATA – Product Interaction, Advertising Data, Other Usage Data
  • SENSITIVE INFO – Sensitive Info
  • DIAGNOSTICS – Crash Data, Performance Data, Other Diagnostic Data
  • OTHER DATA – Other Data Types

Other Purposes

  • PURCHASES – Purchase History
  • FINANCIAL INFO – Other Financial Info
  • LOCATION – Precise Location, Coarse Location
  • CONTACT INFO – Physical Address, Email Address, Name, Phone Number, Other User Contact Info
  • CONTACTS – Contacts
  • USER CONTENT – Photos or Videos, Gameplay Content, Customer Support, Other User Content
  • SEARCH HISTORY – Search History
  • BROWSING HISTORY – Browsing History
  • IDENTIFIERS – User ID, Device ID
  • USAGE DATA – Product Interaction, Advertising Data, Other Usage Data
  • DIAGNOSTICS – Crash Data, Performance Data, Other Diagnostic Data
  • OTHER DATA – Other Data Types

The impact of the iOS privacy app labels on data privacy awareness

Disclosing privacy policies is not a novel feature and Apple is not the first company to do this. However, the way they present the privacy labels makes it easier for average users to understand how their data is collected, shared, or linked to their identity. This makes it more convenient for users to ask themselves if availing free services from these developers are worth the price considering that they are exchanging the privacy and security of their own data.

In a way, not only does this understanding build trust among users and the apps they use, it also enables users to have a sense of control over what information they would like to share with the rest of the world.

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