Apple will be taking a swipe at messaging apps – such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger – by restricting its Internet voice call functionality, according to a new report by The Information.
The VoIP calling feature is always running in the background, even when the apps aren’t in use. This is to ensure that calls are connected faster. Some apps also collect data while the processes are running.
Apple’s move means that you won’t be able to make calls over the Internet with WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. While Facebook will be forced to redesign their messaging app, it will hit WhatsApp the hardest.
WhatsApp uses the internet calling feature in many ways, including the implementation of end-to-end-encryption. The changes will begin to roll out in September; app developers will have until April 2020 to comply with Apple’s demands.
“Power, performance and privacy”
Back in June, at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Roberto Alvarez and Thomas Zhao from the Battery Life team explained how advances in app background execution will benefit users.
Background execution involves anything your phone does in the background, such as Bluetooth; downloading and uploading files; accessing your location via GPS or connecting to WiFi hotspots. Alvarez added:
“When running in the background, we care deeply about user experience, so there are many important factors we consider when we design APIs to support these use cases. And I want to highlight three of these. Power, performance, and privacy.”
Not only does background activity drain your phone’s battery life and hinder the phone’s performance, it could also access your personal data. Alvarez explained that Apple develops apps differently, in order to ensure their users’ privacy.
Apple takes aim at Facebook
Alvarez also said users might be aware that apps collect certain pieces of information while running in the foreground; but may not be aware that the apps are collection information even when running in the background. He added:
“And so, when we design APIs, this means that we have different APIs for different use cases, each with their own set to a specific set of data that it needs to support that. And when using these APIs, think about how to be transparent to the user and let them know which pieces of data you’re using.”
In addition, Apple’s former App Store review chief, Phillip Shoemaker, said that Facebook’s Messenger could use the VoIP mode. It allows them to update the app or listen to the calls. “It’s all unclear to Apple, but could be happening,” he warned.
However, Facebook claims that it has never used the app’s API to collect user data. A spokesperson told The Information that Facebook uses the PushKit VoIP API “to deliver a world-class, private messaging experience, not for the purpose of collecting data.”
Apple’s battle to ensure user privacy
This is not the first time that Apple jabs at Facebook’s privacy concerns. Apple debuted its Sign In With Apple feature at the WWDC, adding that it will be a mandatory update for developers.
The Sign In With Apple feature allows users to sign in to website and apps using their Apple ID. That means that the service or app you’re logging in to won’t have access to your email address or personal data.
You can choose to hide your email address altogether and have Apple create a random, unique email for each app you want to use. You can either choose to share your real one or the dummy email.
The feature was rolled out with iOS 13, and serves as a direct competitor to the Sign In With Facebook features, which Facebook uses to collect user data on third-party services.