Apple iOS 13 to restrict Facebook and WhatsApp background app access


Apple’s next operating system update has taken privacy to be a renewed focus. One new feature in iOS 13 that seems centered on user privacy could have sweeping consequences for messaging and online call apps. In iOS 13, Apple will restrict apps to run voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) in the background when the programs are not actively in use.

This change is slated to roll out when iOS 13 is released in September and many apps that offer VoIP services currently run in the background, which will need to be rewritten to adjust to Apple’s upcoming rules. Though, app developers will get a grace period of up until April 2020 to comply.

Apple has been putting privacy at the front and center of its business, especially as many tech companies make headlines for data breaches or misuse of personal information like we saw Facebook’s recent privacy issues.

iOS 13 will include multiple updates centered on giving users more control over how and when apps can get their information, such as one-time location sharing and a “Sign in with Apple” system. It will let users log in to apps and services without revealing an email address.

“Sign in with Apple” a direct competitor to the Sign in with Facebook button that has jumbled the web for years allowing Facebook to collect information on third-party services its users log into.

The feature guards the users by Apple’s Face ID 3D login system on iPhones and iPads.

“Data collection is limited to the user’s name and email address, and Apple’s private email relay lets users receive email even if they prefer to keep their address private. Apple will not track users as they interact with your app,” the company said.

“All accounts are protected with two-factor authentication for superior security, and Apple will not track users’ activity in your app or website,” said Apple.

When it is necessary for data to leave your device to be processed or stored in the cloud, Apple would let you know and give you the ability to control it.

Messaging apps that offer VoIP calling (Voice over Internet Protocol) typically utilize an ‘always-on’ behavior so that they can connect calls quickly. Yet they also collect information about what users are doing on their devices.

Thus restricting the programs that can simply be open at any time on apple’s mobile hardware, fits the narrative Apple is crafting about being a trusted place for customer privacy in an increasingly untrustworthy industry.

Undoubtedly this move will impact many apps to make some big changes. Possibly the most obvious apps impacted by the update will be Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp programs.

Both these apps give users the option to make calls, and they run in the background of a smartphone so that they can quickly connect calls.

The Information first reported on the story, and a representative from Facebook said that the company is in talks with Apple about this development.

The representative said, “The changes to the upcoming iOS releases are not insignificant, but we are in conversations with Apple on how best to address. To be clear, we are using the PushKit VoIP API to deliver a world-class, private messaging experience, not for the purpose of collecting data.”

It is not yet clear if Facebook’s reps think they can convince Apple to reverse their direction completely, or if they will be looking for a longer grace period to rework apps.

Facebook’s track record for privacy issues is not good, and it may not have data collection as the explicit purpose of its VoIP programs. However, that doesn’t mean the social network isn’t doing so.

Facebook got the scrutiny of the Federal Trade Commission, along with a $5 billion settlement and closer oversight, over charges surrounding misuse of user data.

The firm also stored email-address lists and collected email passwords from its users this spring. Furthermore, many people have the experience of seeing weirdly accurate or timely targeted ads when they use Facebook’s services.

The change, which Apple quietly announced at WWDC 2019, marks another punch in its ongoing feud with Facebook and other services that rely on data collection to make money.

In January, after a TechCrunch report, Apple took drastic action against Facebook by removing the social media giant’s certificate for its Enterprise Developer Program after it uncovered that Facebook was improperly using it to distribute apps that monitored user activity. Although that wasn’t Facebook’s first Apple breach.

iOS 13 Features

Apple is also working on new security features to safeguard your photos and videos from hacking or third-party apps from reading your information.

Apple CEO Tim Cook says, “iOS 13 is twice as faster than iOS 12. The idea is to give Apple users a more agile and secure experience.”

The changes will be implemented in the expected September rollout of iOS 13 and Apple is providing some leeway to app developers, giving them until April 2020 to comply. If they don’t, it might be safe to suppose that these apps could be excluded from the App Store.