Apple has unveiled a new plan to enhance user privacy by requiring developers to provide reasons for utilizing specific APIs in their apps. The policy will come into effect with the release of iOS 17, iPadOS 17, macOS Sonoma, tvOS 17, and watchOS 10 later this year.
By requesting developers to select approved reasons for API usage, Apple aims to prevent the abuse of APIs for data collection purposes and ensure their proper utilization.
The targeted APIs that necessitate reasons for use include File timestamp APIs, System boot time APIs, Disk space APIs, Active keyboard APIs, and User defaults APIs. Apple’s motivation for implementing this policy is to curb fingerprinting attempts carried out by some app developers.
Fingerprinting involves collecting device signals to uniquely identify users across different apps and websites, potentially leading to targeted advertising and privacy violations. By mandating approved reasons for API use and enforcing strict usage limitations, Apple seeks to protect user data and privacy.
Developers submitting new apps or updates will need to include the reasons for using these “required reason APIs” in their app’s privacy manifest starting in Fall 2023. This will ensure transparency and accountability for developers regarding their app’s use of sensitive APIs. Moreover, starting from Spring 2024, apps that fail to declare the reasons for API usage will be rejected, further encouraging adherence to the new privacy measures.
Apple’s developer documentation explicitly states that regardless of whether a user grants permission to track, fingerprinting is strictly prohibited. App developers must ensure that their app’s functionality aligns with the declared reasons for API use, and they are prohibited from using APIs or derived data for tracking purposes.
In a time when user data and privacy concerns are paramount, Apple’s move to tighten API control sets a precedent for promoting user-centric privacy measures in the tech industry.
By requiring clear and legitimate justifications for API use, Apple takes a significant step towards safeguarding user data and mitigating potential privacy risks. The new policy also underlines Apple’s commitment to maintaining the trust of its user base and holding developers accountable for their app’s data practices.