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It was Data Privacy Day last week, and Apple was all over it. The most significant part of the event was Tim Cook’s appearance at the Computers, Privacy & Data Protection Conference. Tim doesn’t often speak publicly, which should tell you how important this is to Apple.

Last year saw the introduction of privacy “nutrition labels”, and all apps must now disclose their data collection practices so the App Store can show a (relatively) glanceable summary.

The Washington Post investigated how accurate these labels were, and the results were unsurprising, with plenty of apps are either deliberately, or accidentally getting this information wrong. Apple appears to be verifying some information, to some extent, but that’s difficult on the client-side, and impossible when data hits a server. Manual verification is potentially part of the solution, but it can never be the whole picture. Disclosure needs to be trust-based, but you can’t trust companies. What’s the solution? Heavy penalties, like the removal of developer accounts, is one option, but I hope that Apple has plans to ensure apps toe the line.

There will be much turbulence as Apple continues to make everyone (including end-users) care about privacy. The biggest shakeup will come from App Tracking Transparency, which has the potential to fundamentally affect companies whose business models are to sell your data.

If you’re a small or independent developer, it’s unlikely that this will have a significant impact on your business, but you’ll still want to stay on top of privacy with every third-party service you use. We’re going to hear a lot about it from Apple over the next few years.

Dave Verwer

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