Amid a bunch of new products, Apple announced a slew of privacy and safety-related features at this week’s WWDC 2023. Here are the best privacy and safety features that you can look forward to when you update your iPhone to iOS 17, or your other Apple devices to the new operating systems releasing this spring.
All the new privacy features coming to your Mac, iPhone and iPad
Private browsing gets better in Safari
Safari will soon be even better at tracking prevention and stopping websites from creating a unique profile of you. Moreover, when you’re using its private browsing mode, Safari will automatically lock itself and protect your browsing from prying eyes if you navigate away from a private browsing tab or step away from your laptop. You’ll need to use biometric authentication or enter your passcode to unlock the browser again.
Better privacy with hyperlinks
Lots of websites try to track you by adding characters at the end of links. Some sites use this to determine if you arrived on that page by using certain search keywords, social media sites, or a particular device. With upcoming software updates, Apple Mail, Messages, and Safari’s private browsing mode will automatically remove this tracking information.
App Privacy Improvements
The App Store’s “privacy nutrition labels” allow you to see what kind of data apps collect from you. The feature is soon getting a boost, as Apple will add information on the data collected by third-party software development kits (SDK) that apps use as well — even if an app itself doesn’t collect any data, the SDK may be doing so.
Improved privacy for calendar entries and photos
Two more iOS 17 privacy features are worth noting: When apps add calendar invites on your iPhone, they won’t be able to see all of your other calendar entries, lessening the risk of your calendar data being skimmed. Similarly, there’s a new photo picker in the operating system that will let you share specific photos with an app without exposing your entire library.
Enhanced protections against explicit content
iOS already has a feature called Communication Safety, which warns children when they’re sending or receiving photos containing nudity in the Messages app. With iOS 17, this feature will also send a warning when there’s nudity in videos sent or received in Messages. The new OS will also protect children from nudity while receiving content on AirDrop, FaceTime video messages, on the Phone app (for contact posters), and in the photo picker. Developers will be able to integrate this feature into their third-party apps as well.
Apple says all photo and video processing for this feature takes place on device, and none of this data is sent to anyone else. The company says these warnings are enabled for child accounts in family sharing plans, and that parents can disable them if they wish to.
All the features of Communication Safety are also available to adults. If you want to use this, you’ll be able to enable this from Privacy & Security settings on your iPhone.
Apple says that everyone will have the option to blur explicit images in Messages, FaceTime, AirDrop, and the Phone app.
Selective data sharing in NameDrop
NameDrop is an iOS 17 feature that makes it easy to exchange contact information with other iPhone or Apple Watch users. When you use this, you’ll be able to filter out the contact information you don’t want to share. For example, if your contact card has your birthday, wedding anniversary, two phone numbers, multiple email addresses, and your physical address, you’ll be able to pick and choose the one or two contact details that you want to offer up.
A fortified Lockdown Mode
Lockdown Mode is a feature built into iOS and macOS that helps protect those at risk of sophisticated cyberattacks. This feature is coming to your Apple Watch with watchOS 10, and Apple says it’s been equipped with better protections on all devices.
Apple TV finally gets VPN support
tvOS 17 has received some improvements this year, most notably long-awaited support for virtual private networks (VPN). App developers can finally make VPN apps for the Apple TV, which is very useful for a number of reasons. VPN functionality can help if you’re looking to bypass geo-restrictions to watch your favourite shows or movies, or if you want to use the adblocking and tracking prevention features a good VPN services offer. Until now, you could use a VPN on Apple TV only by enabling it on your router.
However, you should remember that some apps refuse to work if they detect a VPN, and others may not let you access all the content you need. For example, some streaming apps won’t let you log in if a VPN app is running in the background.
Use Live Voicemail to reduce spam calls
iOS 17’s Live Voicemail feature lets you see a live transcript as the caller begins to leave a voicemail for you. Apple says that when the Silence Unknown Callers feature is enabled, all unknown calls will go to Live Voicemail without ringing. If your carrier identifies a call as spam, that call will be declined immediately.