Apple has released iOS 14.5 and it brings some changes and new features to Apple Podcasts, Siri, Apple Maps, and other apps and services.

This is also the long-anticipated update that brings “tracking transparency” to the iPhone. In a nutshell that means that not only can users choose whether or not to let third-party applications track their across other apps and websites, but users will have to explicitly click the “allow” button if they want to enable the feature.

In other words, data tracking is now an opt-in feature.

Apple iOS 14.5

The good news is that this gives iOS users way more control over their privacy. The bad news is that this could have major repercussions for the online advertising industry, which pays for much of the free content on the internet.

Facebook and other companies have been trying to talk Apple out of making this change, positioning the debate fundamentally as a question of whether individuals or advertisers should pay for the stuff we see on the internet (do you pay Apple a premium price for a privacy-centric device, or do you pay for free content by giving some attention to advertisers?)

Of course, there’s also an argument to be made that advertising doesn’t need to be quite so personalized or intrusive. Before targeted advertising was the norm, Google made a killing by offering contextual advertising where ads were matched with the contents of a website, not the search history and Amazon shopping behavior of readers. I would love to go back to those days, but sadly Facebook and Google haven’t asked my opinion lately (or ever).

Anyway, with European (and California) regulators pushing stricter privacy protections for the internet, web browser makers arguing over the best way to kill and replace third-party cookies, and now Apple making data tracking optional (and opt-in), it’ll be interesting to see what the future holds for businesses that make their money largely through online advertising.

(I guess it’s time for my occasional reminder that Liliputing is largely funded through advertising, but I totally respect the decision of anyone who visits this site using an ad-blocker for privacy, security, and/or performance reasons. But if you want to pitch in a few bucks to help support this website, you can do that via PayPal, Patreon, or by shopping).

But as I mentioned at the top, privacy is just one of the changes in iOS 14.5. Here are some of the others:

  • You can now use an Apple Watch to unlock your iPhone while wearing a face mask. Just glance at the phone and you’ll receive haptic feedback from the watch to let you know our phone has unlocked. This requires an iPhone X or later and Apple Watch Series 3 or later.
  • Siri no longer has a default voice. On setup, you can now choose between available voices.
  • There are new emoji.
  • Apple Maps in the US and China now lets users submit accidents, hazards, or speed traps using Siri and CarPlay.
  • The new Apple Podcasts app is live with anew UI and support for podcast subscriptions
  • AirTags are now supported

You can find more details in Apple’s iOS 14.5 announcement.

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  1. This is cool, but it seems like an easy problem to get around. Will apps start sending this data to some kind of private network that other “in cahoots” services will share? It’s cool that I can deny this activity from taking place inside my own phone, but what’s to stop the Facebook app from collecting data, and then sharing it off-device with other app developers?

    For example, two apps both installed on my phone could signal eachother over an online service to grab and share data. They wouldn’t even need to know that eachother are installed on the app-level. This method could be more easily monetized, and also more accessible to services that you haven’t installed on your phone.

    I’d MUCH rather tackle this problem by allowing me to set up a “sandboxed” app environment on my phone. I’d like to be able to have a partition of my phone that can hold apps that I want to keep in a sandbox, and let me feed them with bogus data linked to a bogus Google account.

    If I could keep several apps in a sandbox that lets them think they have access to camera, location, microphone, browser cookies/history, and only be able to interact with data from other apps that also live in that environment, I would consider that a better alternative. If the environment could offer its own VPN settings, that could be a very foolproof solution.

  2. I’ve read that Apple is now/will be pushing more of their own ads in the app store.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple is intentionally limiting tracking for 3rd-party apps while Apple tracks users themselves without an opt-out/in.

    Apple’s policies don’t apply to themselves when it comes to their own profit.

  3. The “bad news” isn’t actually bad news.
    Having major repercussions is long-overdue with many companies being unethical with their business practices.

    Sure, this will have negative effects on the little guys first, example Liliputing, but small content creators are not the problem, they bring value to the internet. So they will find new ways of monetizing their value without being dragged down by the larger rent-seeking companies.

    The worst affected will be the minimum wage workers in those companies. But some jobs aren’t worth saving. Those people will need to find something else, hopefully, for the better.