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Heads up, app developers: Apple is getting even more serious about privacy

App Store new rule

Apple has made its stance around privacy and the way it handles user data a centerpiece of the company under CEO Tim Cook, who’s been one of the most high-profile pro-privacy champions in tech. Until now, though, there’s been an area of Apple’s vast operation that’s fallen somewhat short of that promise, and a new announcement from the company is changing that.

In an announcement posted to app developers, Apple says it’s making a shift in its approach to the developer community. Starting Oct. 3, every single app including those still in testing will be required to have a privacy policy in place in order to be submitted for distribution on the App Store or through TestFlight external testing.

What’s more, Apple says that developers will only be able to edit those new privacy policy links or text when they submit a new version of the app. No quiet tinkering with the language quickly while hoping no one’s watching, in other words.

A TechCrunch report today speculates that there may still be a loophole in that last part. Presumably, developers will still be free to change the text on a webpage at any time if their privacy policy includes a link that takes users to an external site. The way the privacy policies will be reviewed also isn’t necessarily clear yet. Because if it’s Apple looking over all the new language, that would suggest it might take even longer than it already does to review apps before they’re made available in the App Store.

“Apple has already taken a stance on apps it finds questionable, like Facebook’s data-sucking VPN app Onavo, which it kicked out of the App Store earlier this month,” TechCrunch notes. “The app had been live for years, however, and its App Store text did disclose the data it collected was shared with Facebook. The fact that Apple only booted it now seems to indicate it will take a tougher stance on apps which are designed to collect user data as one of their primary functions going forward.”

That report goes on to point out that this is now perhaps an even more robust approach to privacy for Apple, in that the company can now hold apps to account based on, well, their own words.

Apple’s announcement explains here how developers can add or edit privacy policies for the App Store as part of the new rule.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.

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