Apple plans to increase user privacy; Adds virtual IDs on iPhones

By Ashika Rajan, Trainee Reporter
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The tech giant Apple has unveiled plans to increase user privacy and keep customer data out of other companies’ hands, laying out features including expanded video conferencing and the ability to store virtual government IDs on iPhones.

These updates are due to the accusations from rivals that it has too much control over its App Store.

The changes were announced at Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) for software developers, who have begun to complain about Apple’s grip over which apps appear on its devices all while earning 15 percent to 30 percent digital sales commissions.

Many of the new features allow customers to protect their data, trusting the information to the Apple brand. Users will be able to scan ID cards in participating US states, and the cards will be encrypted in a user’s digital wallet, along with credit cards and transit cards in selected US cities.

In many cases, Apple is unable to see all of the information. The paid version of Apple’s iCloud storage service now includes a feature that obscures a user’s web browsing habits, even from Apple. Another new iCloud feature will allow users to conceal their real email address, which is increasingly being utilized by digital marketers to track users. The company stated that iCloud pricing will not change even with the addition of these new features.

Apple also tweaked some of its apps and services in ways that could intensify competition with Zoom Video Communications and Microsoft Corp.’s Teams, both of which rose to prominence during the pandemic.

It updated its FaceTime video chat app to allow scheduling calls with multiple attendees and making the software compatible with Android and Windows devices.

Apple also announced in-app events, which allow developers to host live events within their apps and have those events featured in real-time in the App Store. Video game developers, for example, could host live tournaments and market those on the App Store, which the company’s current systems are not built to handle.

The move might intensify competition with Facebook, which announced that it plans to launch an online events business that would be free until 2023 and then charge commissions lower than Apple’s 30 percent App Store fees.

Several of the other features were announced by the iPhone maker such as the ability to snap a picture of a sign and use artificial intelligence to pluck out the written content, a feature that has been on Android devices for years.

Apple has claimed that its App Store practices boost the market for mobile software by creating an environment for paid apps that consumers trust, although the company’s CEO Mr. Tim Cook and his team did not mention frayed developer relations during the presentation.

Related: Apple’s AirTags to get new feature to prevent unwarranted tracking