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What’s in your app? The new privacy labels to put you in the know

What’s in your app?

Ever wanted to know what your apps are doing with your data? Apple’s data labels are the new shortcut for your digital privacy and choice.

When nutrition labels first came to food items, they were quite the revolution, and a bit confronting – who knew your cereal had more sugar than a chocolate bar?

As much of our lives have moved online, wouldn’t it be great to have that kind of insight about the digital services we use?

It’s not well known, but Apple have launched new labels on all the apps in its App Store. These labels are a new standardised way to understand the different types of data each app collects from you, and how they might use it. 

One of Apple’s stated core values is privacy, so they are actively finding ways to give consumers more information.

As well as giving you the information to decide whether you are happy to share certain elements of your personal information to use the app, these labels also make a provider accountable for the way they use your information, and give them an easy way to show they are trustworthy. It’s a win for everyone.

Finding the labels

One quirk of these nutrition labels - which are designed to empower people with more information - is that in order to find them, you need to know where they are.

In the App Store, when you click on an app, you need to scroll all the way down, past the ‘Get’ button and the app information, until you find the heading ‘App Privacy’.

There is a quick snapshot under that heading, and you can get more information by hitting ‘See Details’, and get a more detailed rundown of the privacy information Apple has available about this app.

That process works for new apps you want to download, but what about the smorgasbord of apps (hello Instagram) on your phone? To find the label for your downloaded apps, go to your phone’s ‘Settings’ and tap on the app you want to know about.

Scroll down (again), until you find ‘About’ and ‘Privacy’ in small blue writing. Tap that to get the digital privacy overview, and go to ‘More Details’ to get the full picture on how that app is collecting and using your data.  

What do the labels mean?

Apple has broken the nutrition labels into three big categories around what type of data they collect and how they use it:

  • Data linked to you – this means the app could collect information like contact information, purchases, your location, or your search history to build out your identity.
  • Data used to track you – this data like your purchases, data use and identifiers is being collected and used to track you across other websites or apps.
  • Data not linked to you – this could be information like location for a map app, but does not personally identify you.

Under those three categories, apps will then list all the different ways that might collect data and how they might use it, which might be for advertising purposes or even sharing with a third-party data collector. The list can be long. Check out the Facebook label if you want to see the many ways data can be collected and used.

As the app’s information is self-reported by developers to Apple, they’re not rigorous. But it is making developers be more accountable, and giving users a better understanding of how their information might be used, and whether they’re okay with that, before they hit download.

Do you use the P&N mobile banking app? Check out our digital label here.

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