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Apple introduced new features for iOS 12 at its Worldwide Developers Conference earlier this month, but some of its most notable rollouts center around a not-so-exciting subject: user privacy. The next version of iOS includes several useful features for protecting privacy as well as making it easier and speedier to get help from emergency services on your smartphone.
For U.S. iPhone users, the device will “securely and automatically” share device location with first responders when you dial 911, according to 9to5Mac. The goal of this feature is to decrease response time, but the update still has user security in mind. In a call with emergency services, only the responding 911 center will gain access to your location. Your location data will not be shared for non-emergency purposes.
In the past, iOS has used a system called Hybridized Emergency Location (HELO) to triangulate an iPhone user’s location for emergency services based on signals from its internal radios. IOS 12’s new system, however, is a partnership with a company called RapidSOS, and it can share far more exact location data with first responders. (For those who want to take advantage of this technology today, you can download the firm’s RapidSOS Haven app.)
In a different vein, Apple also aims to improve users’ privacy and safety as they browse the internet, Singapore Trending News reported. Building on the safe web browsing tools it introduced for iOS 11 last year, iOS 12’s Safari browser will automatically block cookies from sites like Facebook that track your activities across the web.
Facebook can normally track your internet whereabouts through the “Like” and “Share” buttons on websites, but with this change, Safari will block those buttons’ tracking functions unless you give explicit permission otherwise. When you navigate to a webpage with built-in trackers, Safari will serve a pop-up asking you if you’d like to allow the site to access your data or not.
Sites and advertising platforms use data to build a unique fingerprint identity for you. They then use that fingerprint to serve you persistent, tailored ads that cater to your location, previous purchases, age and gender, and more. The iOS 12 browser update will counteract that process.
Both of these new tools will become available when iOS 12 ships later this fall.
Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.