One of the more interesting new privacy features that Apple announced with iOS 14 this year isn’t even really part of iOS at all, but rather a new App Store privacy labelling initiative that will help you understand exactly how apps use — or potentially misuse — your personal information.
The new feature is being colloquially referred to as “Privacy Nutrition Labels” as it’s intent is to function the same way as food nutrition labels, providing an easy-to-read standard that allows you to see at a glance exactly what any given app is going to do with your data.
Now that iOS 14 has been out for several weeks, however, you may be wondering why you haven’t seen any of these labels in the App Store yet, but don’t worry, they’re still coming.
It just seems that Apple has just been giving developers a little bit more time to prepare, since the system relies entirely on self-reporting by developers.
The good news, however, is that Apple isn’t relying on developers to offer up this information out of the goodness of their hearts; developers will be required to complete a questionnaire when submitting their apps for publication on the App Store — both for new apps and updates — and those responses will be used to build the necessary privacy labels for each app on the App Store.
When’s It Coming?
We heard back in September that Apple had begun the process of adding the privacy questions for new app submissions, so it sounds like at least some developers had already been supplying this information, perhaps on a trial basis.
As of November 5th, however, Apple has announced that all developers will now be required to enter their information into App Store Connect, and while it’s providing a bit of a grace period, as of December 8th, 2020 no new apps or app updates will be permitted unless the privacy information has been fully disclosed.
To be clear, this isn’t just about the basics either; Apple has put together a comprehensive list of all of the information it expects developers to disclose, although it’s not mandatory in all cases.
Apple notes that developers won’t need to include types of data that are not used for tracking purposes or advertising where the collection is infrequent, not part of the app’s primary functionality, and where it’s obvious to the user within the app that the data is being requested and it’s optional for the user.
For example, an app that allows a user to submit a feedback form or make a customer service request might be exempt because the user knows exactly what they’re doing when they fill out the form, and they’re not required to do so in order to use the app. However, if the developer is using that information to track the user or for advertising — even asking the user to sign up for a newsletter would qualify — they would still need to disclose that on the privacy label, so exceptions to this rule are probably going to be pretty rare.
It’s still not entirely clear when we’ll begin seeing the actual Privacy Nutrition Labels appearing alongside apps on the App Store, but Apple has committed to having them ready by the end of this year, so we imagine they’ll appear around the same time as the Dec. 8th deadline, if not before.
That said, however, don’t expect to see them on a lot of apps right away; Apple is only requiring this information as new apps and updates are submitted by developers, but of course there’s a massive back catalog of hundreds of thousands of apps on the App Store that haven’t been updated, and as of right now Apple hasn’t announced any plans to force developers to go back and add this information for their existing apps.