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WWDC 2021: Apple Doubles Privacy and Opens FaceTime to Other Platforms

Apple unveiled the next version of its mobile and desktop operating systems, an overhaul of its FaceTime video calling platform, and new privacy controls for its Apple Mail app at its 2021 Worldwide Developers Conference.

With the popularity of video calling rapidly increasing since the start of the pandemic, FaceTime is expanding to users on other platforms such as Android and Windows.

However, those users cannot access an app and must use the service through their browser, accessing conversations through links in a manner similar to competing services such as Zoom and Google Meet.

The company is introducing new privacy controls for its Mail app that hide data such as a user’s IP address and location, as well as details about if and when someone opened a marketing email.

The new Mail Privacy Protection feature, launching later this year, will block data brokers and advertisers from collecting personal information that can be collected when users interact with emails sent to them.

This comes shortly after the rollout of iOS 14.5 in April, which was also a privacy-focused update that gave users the ability to block apps from tracking them online.

WWDC 2021 also offered a glimpse of iOS 15, which, in addition to the aforementioned updates to FaceTime, will include a new feature called Focus, as well as improvements to notifications and Apple Maps.

Focus enables detailed customization of the Do Not Disturb feature with new themes that block notifications from friends and family when switched to work mode, or exclude notes from colleagues when a user wants to spend quality time with loved ones.

Notifications are also undated with a new summary tool, which groups certain less urgent alerts as a collection and can be scheduled to come through when you have more time to go through them.

The Wallet app now, for the first time, has the ability to support home and hotel room keys, as well as office passes, allowing users to tap their iPhone to enter.

Apple Maps has also been given a new, more detailed 3D look, while the iPhone camera can now recognize and extract text from images.

MacOS Monterey, which will be coming to Apple’s desktop devices, will include a new tool called Universal Control that will allow a single mouse and keyboard to control and navigate the screens of up to three different devices.

Safari, Apple’s web browser, has received a more compact redesign with a tidier address bar and tabs and the ability to group tabs into collections for the first time, a feature that was available in Chrome last year.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said all new software will be released to the public in the fall, likely along with the launch of the next iPhone and other Apple hardware.

Industry expert Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight, welcomed Apple’s latest privacy controls, but warned it could further disrupt advertising and other businesses that rely on data collection.

“Apple’s tightening of user privacy options is the defining theme for this year’s WWDC and will cause further consternation among companies that rely on user data for tracking, advertising and monetization,” he said.

Hiding information such as IP addresses, location, and whether users have opened or read emails could severely limit the way many companies track users and monetize them, but will be welcomed by increasingly aware consumers. of how much data is captured.”