As hinted in the WhatsApp link above, Apple’s new iOS privacy nutrition labels are now enabled as of December 8. This means there’s a new info panel on all App Store download pages, and people are starting to notice.
Problem is, many of these categories are so broad that a typical user can struggle to understand what they mean.
For example: one of the options an app can report is that it tracks ‘Search History’. According to Apple’s definition, that means
Information about searches performed in the app. But many people I’ve talked to automatically assume this means your entire search history (including web searches in Safari).
And that’s the crux of this issue: the only way to truly quantify something is (ironically, given the situation) to collect data on it…which is what these new labels do. They provide data about data collection. This transparency is an objectively good goal, but it relies on individual humans (app developers) each independently using unclear guidance from Apple as a rubric to interpret a lot of very nuanced implementation details. In other words, it’s very subjective.
Apple then takes all that subjective aggregation and shoehorns it into a set of categories that are presented as cut-and-dried, true/false data. Which it isn’t.
Even IF these categorizations were intuitive to end users, it seems like the current implementation leads by default to a worst-case interpretation by end users. Hopefully we’ll all get a better picture about the expected norms as Apple refines the process after this initial rollout.