17 July 2019
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California, on Monday. Photo: Reuters
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at the company's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California, on Monday. Photo: Reuters

How Apple’s new iOS 12 will change the digital ecosystem

During its annual Worldwide Developers Conference on Monday, Apple Inc. unveiled updates to its operating systems for iPhones, Mac computers and watches.

While focusing on boosting the efficiency of its operating systems to improve user experience, the technology giant also revealed how it intends to protect users from data risks and promote their “digital wellbeing” by helping them reduce the time they spend on devices and applications.

Apple has been stressing for a long time that privacy protection is its top priority and it won’t use the personal data of users to make money.

In the new iOS 12 operating system, Apple introduced a feature on its Safari mobile browser that will block websites such as Google and Facebook from tracking consumer activity via share buttons.

When Safari users visit a page with a Facebook share button, a prompt, a single line of text displayed at the top of the search bar, will ask them if they want to give Facebook the ability to track them.

But since it is highly unlikely that users would willingly accept such tracking efforts if given a choice, “we’re shutting that down,” said Apple software head Craig Federighi.

Is that good for users? It very much depends on what users would want to do on the social network. If users who want to share or like things on Facebook find it harder to do so with Apple products, they may switch to another device or browser. Otherwise, they may be happy with Apple’s initiative as it could better protect their privacy.

The move, of course, could have a huge impact on the advertising revenue of Facebook and Google as it might be more difficult for them to serve targeted ads to Apple users.

This new feature of the iOS12 platform has been a favorite topic in online forums recently, especially in the wake of the scandal involving Cambridge Analytica’s use of personal data of Facebook users without their consent.

In an interview with US National Public Radio after the launch of iOS12, Apple CEO Tim Cook voiced his opposition to the practice of web tracking. “We think that when a person leaves one website, and goes to another and another and another, they do not have a reasonable expectation that that original website is still following their every move.”

Apple has pledged to do what could to prevent web tracking. Cook stressed that digital advertising is not the issue, data mining is.

Just days before Apple’s launch of its new operating systems, The New York Times reported that Facebook has formed at least 60 data-sharing partnerships with device makers such Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Samsung over the last 10 years.

Cook immediately responded: Apple has never received nor requested data from Facebook. Its partnership with the social media giant simply allowed users to access the platform directly from their device’s operating system.

Meanwhile, in response to growing public concern over the amount of time that iPhone users, especially kids, are spending on their devices, Apple launched a new feature on iOS 12.

The Screen Time feature gives users a better understanding of the time they spend using apps and visiting websites through those devices. The aim is for users to make the most of the time they spend on an iPhone or an iPad.

Needless to say, Apple’s new features may work against the business model of Facebook, YouTube and other social media, whose aim is to encourage users to spend the maximum amount of time on their platforms, thus boosting their ad revenues.

Cook pledged that his company will always put the user at the center: “And so the user is our focus. And so our question is what is in their best interest? How can we serve them best?”

In short, Apple is giving the control of the online experience back to the users, allowing them to prevent the use of their personal data without their consent and manage the time they spend on their devices.

It now depends on each iPhone or iPad user to use their time wisely in the virtual world and in real life.

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EJ Insight writer

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