Apple adds powerful new privacy features to Mail and more

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Apple Privacy Slide from WWDC 2021
Apple is taking even more shots at advertisers in the WWDC 2021 Privacy updates
Screenshot: Apple

Apple is bringing big privacy-focused changes to its Mail app and other parts of its ecosystem, the company said Monday.

“At Apple, we believe privacy is a fundamental human right,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior VP of software engineering. “We don’t think you should have to make a tradeoff between great features and privacy. We believe you deserve both.”

Mail Privacy Protection

One way your online activity is frequently tracked is through your interactions with email. In upcoming operating system releases, Apple Mail will do two things to help keep your activity private.

A new feature called Mail Privacy Protection will anonymize or obscure users’ IP address when opening emails. This prevents images and assets within emails from reporting your location, helping reduce the ability for advertisers to track your activity between the browser and your email. This also prevents advertisers from knowing when you personally opened an email.

App Privacy Report

The next privacy feature to help users understand their data and permissions is the App Privacy Report. Similar to the privacy report you see in Safari on iOS 14 and macOS Big Sur, you’ll now get a report from apps installed on your Apple devices.

With App Privacy Reports, you’ll see which apps had access to your location, photos, camera, microphone, contacts and more over the last week. It will also let you see who your data may be shared with based on the domains the app is contacting.

Siri

Even Siri can manage to set alarms and timers without screwing it up.
Even Siri can manage to set alarms and timers without screwing it up.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

The next big privacy change is with Siri’s on-device processing. Trumpeted as a privacy feature, Siri will increase its reliance on on-device processing. This prevents data from being sent to Apple’s servers for processing, and keeps your audio recordings local to your device, keeping your requests even more private. It also allows Siri to operate offline, which should make it even faster for on-device requests like setting timers, looking up contacts, launching apps or toggling settings.

iCloud Privacy

When it comes to privacy, your personal files can be some of the most important things to keep secure. With privacy updates to iCloud, Apple is making your data both more secure, and less susceptible to losing access to.

The first iCloud feature is the Family Recovery Contact. By assigning a specific contact (or contacts), you can quickly recover access to your iCloud account should you forget your password, by sending the verification code to their device. This means that even if you forget your mom’s iCloud password, she can still reset the password with your help, without risk of losing her entire photo library.

A similar feature is the Digital Legacy feature. By assigning a specific contact (or contacts) to your iCloud Digital Legacy, they can request access to your iCloud data from Apple in the event that you pass away.

iCloud+

iCloud Plus offers private relay, hide my email, and updates to HomeKit video
iCloud+ has all the features of iCloud, plus some great new security additions.
Screenshot: Apple

The final big iCloud feature is Apple’s new iCloud+ service. Available to all paying iCloud subscribers, iCloud+ offers 3 key features. The first is Private Relay, which acts in a similar fashion to a “privacy VPN”, preventing trackers and ISPs from knowing your location or device details.

Another big iCloud+ feature is “Hide My Email”, which allows you to use the Safari auto fill feature to enter proxy email addresses when entering your details on a website. This allows you to keep your real email address private, while still receiving the emails from the service. And if a sender starts abusing the email address, simply delete it and never hear from them again.

The final big privacy-related feature was an update to HomeKit Secure Video. Now, with iCloud+, you can add an unlimited number of cameras to the Home app, and use recording from those cameras, without those recordings counting towards your iCloud storage space.

iCloud+ and all of the new privacy features will be available to customers this fall with the release of macOS Monterey and iPadOS and iOS 15.