Apple boosts privacy protections with new mobile, desktop software

Tech giant has trackers in sights as it previews iOS 15, MacOS Monterey

Apple increased user privacy protections and announced new features for FaceTime, iMessage, its digital wallet and notifications as it previewed the latest version of its iPhone software.

The tech giant unveiled new software across its range of products at its second virtual developer conference, which was broadcast from its California campus .

The company also announced the next version of its MacOS software, revamped the iPad’s Home screen and multitasking, and extended features to WatchOS 8.

The new iOS 15 software, which will be available to users in the autumn, will block trackers that notify senders when an email has been opened or read, potentially causing a headache for email marketers. The app privacy report will also reveal how often apps are using permissions granted to them to use location, photos, camera, microphone and contacts in the previous seven days.


Digital assistant Siri, meanwhile, is getting on-device processing for voice recognition, safeguarding users’ privacy while also speeding up response times for users.


Apple also made moves to open up its video calling software beyond the Apple ecosystem. FaceTime is getting the ability to schedule video calls, with the service accessible to Android and Windows users via a browser. That move will put it in competition with third-party video apps such as Zoom.

FaceTime users will also be able to share music, TV shows, movies and screens through SharePlay. Apple also introduced new features such as spatial audio and background blur to help the software feel more natural.

"When talking on a video call, many of those signals can get lost, leaving us feeling drained," said Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering.

In the US, the Wallet app will now hold a user's state ID cards, with the Transportation Security Administration currently working with Apple to accept the digital IDs at airports. The company is also working with more companies to bring authentication for everything from cars and home security to your hotel room to the Wallet app.

Other notable updates for the mobile software include the ability to use artificial intelligence to recognise text from a photograph, and pull it into an email or document.

“For many customers, iPhone has become indispensable, and this year we’ve created even more ways it can enhance our daily lives,” said Mr Federighi. “iOS 15 helps users stay connected while sharing experiences in real time, gives them new tools to help reduce distraction and find focus, uses intelligence to enhance the photos experience, and, with huge upgrades to Maps, brings new ways to explore the world.

The iPad software, iPadOS, is getting an improved widgets system for the Home screen that allows users to place widgets among apps. Apple also made improvements to the Notes app, adding the ability to tag shared users in notes, while also introducing Quick Notes, which allows users to begin drawing on the screen with the Apple to Pencil to start a note, eliminating the need to launch the app.

The iPad is also getting the Translate app, and the ability to create Apps for the iPad and iPhone on the device through Swift Playgrounds.

Apple’s subscription iCloud service is changing its name to iCloud+ and getting new security features that include Private Relay, which encrypts web traffic and hides it from third parties, including Apple and advertisers.

Apple also previewed the new version of its Mac software, MacOS Monterey, which includes a new tab bar for safari and the ability to organise tabs to read later; Shortcuts to automate tasks; and new Continuity features such as AirPlay to Mac and Universal Control. The latter allows users to control other Apple devices such as iPads from Mac computers and laptops.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist