Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

In MacOS Big Sur and iOS 14, Apple News Plus Subscribers See Links to Some Publishers Opening in Apple News Instead of a Web Browser

Tony Haile of Scroll:

Woah, I wonder how many publishers in Apple News+ realize that the new iOS 14 and MacOS Big Sur are by default intercepting traffic to their sites and sending it to the Apple News app instead.

Jeff Johnson:

From a privacy perspective, it would be very disturbing if Apple’s operating system were “phoning home” to Cupertino when you opened a URL to a non-Apple web site. Fortunately, this is not the case, at least on macOS Big Sur. (I haven’t installed or tested the iOS 14 beta, but I would assume it behaves the same as Big Sur in this respect.) This is easy to test yourself, if you think about it. Today I signed up for a free 1 month trial of Apple News+ (note to self: cancel in 4 weeks). Then I got the URL of an article from The Wall Street Journal, a publisher who participates in News+. I disconnected my internet by turning off my MacBook Pro’s Wi-Fi. Finally, I opened the Terminal app and entered the following command:

[…]

Same result, opens the News app! So I think we can say with confidence that Big Sur is checking an offline list of URL domains rather than checking online with Apple. Your privacy is still protected here.

It seems to me that if you pay for Apple News Plus you’d like to make full use of your subscription. If you open an article from the Wall Street Journal or the Atlantic in Safari, your visit will count against a paywall or you may not be able to view the article at all. Apple has chosen a crude way to send subscribers to Apple News — something more like an app banner would be less interruptive — but this does not appear to be as gratuitous or as privacy-invasive as it appear at first blush.