One of the big announcements from WWDC 2019 was the “Sign in with Apple” privacy-focused login system for applications. The button offers Apple ID single-sign-on functionality similar to sign-in options from Facebook or Google. Apple is promoting this feature as a privacy-secure sign-in option. Users select what information to share with the app developer. You can share your real email address with the third-party app, or use the ‘hide my email’ option. In the latter case, the app would only see a randomized anonymous email address. You can also remove the anonymous email address at any time.
When I was listening to the introduction of this feature, I immediately thought back to the D8 conference where Steve Jobs discussed Apple’s approach to privacy. In the interview, he spoke specifically about location tracking.
Take location on phones – we take this really seriously. Before any app can get location data, they can’t just put up a panel asking if it can use location – they call OUR panel and it asks you if it’s okay. That’s one of the reasons we have the curated app store. A lot of the people in the Valley think we’re old fashioned about this. But we take it seriously.
When you think about how our world has changed since that speech, it really shows that Apple has always been ahead of the game with privacy. In a world where companies love to learn more about you to better sell products to you in the future, Apple has always been for your privacy even if you weren’t, and I think that is a key thing to remember.
A lot of people don’t care about their privacy, but Apple still does. You might not care about an app wanting your location data, but Apple still does. Their new Sign In with Apple feature is raising some frustrations, though. As noted by 9to5Mac’s Ben Lovejoy, some developers don’t like the new terms and conditions.
The condition is that app developers must offer the option of ‘Sign in with Apple’ if they offer any other third-party sign-in. So if a developer offers sign-in with Google, Facebook or Twitter, they have no choice but to offer Apple’s version too.
Ben also noted that Reuters had some additional information related to Sign in with Apple:
Apple Inc will ask developers to position a new “Sign on with Apple” button in iPhone and iPad apps above rival buttons from Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc, according to design guidelines released this week.
The move to give Apple prime placement is significant because users often select the default or top option on apps […]
Apple’s suggestion to developers to place its login button above rival buttons is part of its “Human Interface Guidelines,” which are not formal requirements to pass App Store review. But many developers believe that following them is the surest way to gain approval.
I’m sure Apple has the data on how many people are using social login on iOS, and I am sure it upsets them. When a user signs in with Facebook, they are feeding the advertising machine of a company that has continued to do the wrong thing time and time again. They are feeding a company with data despite Apple’s attempts to protect privacy. It’s the equivalent of someone installing a really secure security system in their home and then leaving a window open.
For people who are upset about Apple’s requirements, and think they are an overreach of Apple’s authority over the platform, I want to have an honest discussion.
No one is forcing you to use social login
If you have an application that needs a login system, you are free to roll out your own. You can set up the backend web service, maintain the security of the system, and handle support requests. You’re probably thinking, that is a lot of work when they are easier options like Google and Facebook. You’re right! Apple is simply saying that if you are going to use social login, you must include Sign in with Apple (which costs you nothing) and allow users to maintain privacy. As a user, I rarely use social login as I don’t like to feed companies with more personal data. If a company offers Sign in with Apple as a privacy focused login system, I will certainly use it to sign up for a service.
Why wouldn’t you want to use Sign in with Apple?
The one thing I keep hearing is how developers don’t want to be forced to use Sign in with Apple if they offer other social logins. Why not? What would the reason be? Is it because it limits the amount of data you can learn about users? The more I think about it, the more I’ve come to the realization that anyone who is upset about Sign in with Apple is upset because of how it’ll impact a business negatively while protecting user privacy.
Sign in with Apple is good for user privacy, and it’s good for developers. For users, we get security and privacy while still having an easy way to sign up for new services. For developers, you give users a fast way to sign up for your application/service in a way that protects their privacy. Unless I am completely missing something, Sign in with Apple is good for everyone, except companies who want to limit user privacy.