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'A fundamental human right': Apple doubles down on privacy at big developers conference

JP Mangalindan
Chief Tech Correspondent
Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi announced Sign-in with Apple on Monday at WWDC in San Jose, California. Source: Apple

Apple (AAPL) made privacy a major theme once again at this year’s annual worldwide developers conference on Monday by rolling out a number of new features with a focus on protecting user data.

The Cupertino, California-based tech giant announced on Monday several new privacy-focused updates for desktop and mobile, including “Sign in with Apple” and HomeKit Secure Video, as well as upgrades to Apple’s Location and Messages features.

“At Apple, we believe privacy is a fundamental human right,” said Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi onstage on Monday, adding that the company made significant efforts this year to make user privacy even more of a priority.

‘No accessory is more personal than security cameras’

Most notable was the new Sign in with Apple feature, which will let users with Apple IDs sign into mobile apps and websites without having to manually input their information each time. However, unlike comparable features from Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOGGOOGL), Apple emphasized that privacy around users’ information will be a top priority with Sign in with Apple. To that end, Apple users won’t have to provide their actual email addresses when they sign in using Sign in with Apple. Alternatively, Apple can create a random email address that forwards messages to users’ real address.

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 03: Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers the keynote address during the 2019 Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) at the San Jose Convention Center on June 03, 2019 in San Jose, California. The WWDC runs through June 7. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, HomeKit Secure Video, intended for home security cameras, analyzes captured video in your home on Apple devices like your iPad, Apple TV, or HomePod before encrypting that data and storing it in users’ iCloud accounts. That differs from how home security video footage is typically processed, by being shuttled off to the cloud first to be processed.

“No accessory is more personal than security cameras that film in or around your home,” Federighi said, emphasizing that not even Apple will be able to see users’ home security camera video footage.

Features like Location and Messages also received privacy-focused upgrades. With Location, Apple is introducing new features like alerts when users’ are being tracked in the background by apps, as well as increased protections around users’ locations over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Apple is also making it possible for Messages users to share their contact and picture information to friends, provided users grant permission.

Over the last 18 months, Apple has emphasized privacy as a major feature in its products and services in an apparent effort to distinguish itself from Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOGGOOGL), which have come under fire over privacy lapses. Apple CEO Tim Cook has sharply criticized the social network during press interviews. And at this year’s CES in January, Apple even plastered the side of a building with a privacy ad declaring, “What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone.”

On Monday, all three tech giants — Facebook, Apple, and Google — saw their stocks decline amid reports of potential antitrust investigations.

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