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What are Apple’s Privacy Nutrition Labels? Here’s what you need to know about the new App Store feature that prioritizes user privacy

What are Apple’s Privacy Nutrition Labels? Here’s what you need to know about the new App Store feature that prioritizes user privacy

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Years ago, the government introduced mandatory nutrition labels on food products so that consumers could know what went inside them to make healthier and more informed choices. People were becoming increasingly concerned over the unknown ingredients they were consuming and how they would affect their bodies.

Today, people have a similar concern with their phones. When you download a new app, it can be unclear what data it will have access to and how much of an impact it will have on your privacy.

Apple came up with a solution for this issue with the launch of Privacy Nutrition Labels in iOS 14.3, upping the stakes in the app privacy sphere.

Apple Privacy Nutrition Labels are just what they sound like: pages that tell you exactly what data of yours the app can access, how they access it, and what it’s used for — with around 34 different standardized labels developers are required to fill out. It is the sole responsibility of the developer to self-report privacy information, which has led to some uncertainty in the integrity of these labels as Apple continues to test them out.

Not many apps have these available yet — Apple began asking developers to provide their apps’ privacy information as of December 8, 2020, giving the option for early submissions if desired. Any apps already in the App Store that lack privacy nutrition labels have been grandfathered in, but their developers will be asked to provide it the next time they make a software update.

How to find Apple’s Privacy Nutrition Labels for apps

Since this is a relatively new feature, only a handful of apps may have privacy labels. To find these labels on apps in the App Store:

1. Open the App Store.

2. Go to the app’s page and keep scrolling down past Rating & Reviews and What’s New to the App Privacy section.

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3. The app may or may not have the privacy nutrition label filled out, which will be visible in this section.

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4. If it is filled out, tap on one of the categories for more information on how those data indicators are being used according to the app.

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5. If the privacy label says “No Details Provided,” scroll a little further down to the next section that says “Information.”

6. Tap the link labeled “Privacy Policy” at the bottom of the list to go to the app’s privacy page, which will take you to the app’s website.

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7. Read through the app’s policies and determine whether you want to give it access to the information specified.

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Privacy Nutrition Labels are great for developers, not just users

The benefits of Apple Nutrition Labels are clear for users — you’ll be able to find out exactly what data you’re sharing with app developers and what they’re using it for, in clear terms. This will make it easier to protect your information from people you don’t want to have it, like marketing companies outside of the app itself.

However, if you’re not a developer looking to sell users’ data and take pride in your particular app’s privacy measures, these labels can be good for you, as well.

This transparency takes the “nothing to fear, nothing to hide” argument and moves the responsibility from the consumer to the developer. Now, the only companies that need to worry about privacy are the ones that have issues with it.

Not only does this mean that honest app developers will look better by comparison and gain consumers’ trust, it also means that, over time, it will be harder for companies to peddle apps that sell users’ data — or worse.

Apple Privacy Nutrition Labels could eventually foster a developer culture that doesn’t make space for predatory apps that collect personal information without clear disclosure, while helping users stay informed on how they’re being tracked online. This could result in creating greater trust in the relationship between tech companies and users.

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