Privacy has become an important talking point in the tech world with companies like Google and Facebook that depend on advertising as their primary revenue source trying to find as much information as they can about their users in order to serve targeted ads. In this scenario, Apple has emerged as one big entity that has stood firm on user privacy, with Tim Cook even advocating privacy as a "fundamental right". Apple says it is committed to offering data security protection while giving users the transparency they require about how their personal information is used across Apple devices and services.
At the same time, the company says that it doesn't offer backdoor access or master key to any of its offerings, a stand that has seen it run into trouble in the US and even closer to home. Nevertheless, to highlight how it continues to protect user privacy, Apple has now released a new privacy website. The new website also gives tips to users to ensure that their data is protected and secured on Apple devices.
The new privacy website essentially elaborates Apple’s stand on privacy. There is also a dedicated Data and Privacy website that details the steps users need to take to correct the data Apple has on them through their Apple IDs. The same tool can also be used to delete an Apple ID. For the users in the US, it also details all the information that Apple holds on them. Instead of maximising data collection to improve the delivery of targeted ads, Apple claims to minimise data collection, and despite that it is able to improve existing features and offers personalised experiences.
For instance, Apple News and Siri use various random identifiers to enable personalised experiences without creating a comprehensive profile of a particular user. The company also collects a set of random identifiers to improve Apple Maps for certain locations. Similarly, the company asserts that its health research initiatives only collect data disassociated from a customer's name and account. You can also see that offerings such as Siri and Safari work on iOS and macOS without requiring any sign-ins.
To improve features, Apple claims that it concentrates on groups of people and uses Differential Privacy techniques that scramble data on individual devices and combines it with the data of other customers to determine general patterns. This restricts access to specific patterns of individual users that can be used to learn specific things about individual users. The minimisation of data collection also limits certain advancements, such as the adoption of your native lexicon by the preloaded QuickType keyboard.
Apple does need to associate users with their personal data in some instances. For example, the company serves ads in the App Store and News app. But in such cases, the company claims that it tells customers explicitly that it's collecting data related to them. It also affirms that it places strong dividers between users' information and the ad network to preserve privacy in spite of serving ads.
Instead of using cloud computing to process data it receives from its biometric technologies — Touch ID and Face ID — Apple uses on-device processing enabled by the dedicated Secure Enclave unit that is a discrete part of the custom silicon. The fundamentals of on-device processing is also used for various personalised experiences. For instance, the QuickType keyboard engine can use the data from the Calendar app to provide you with a particular free slot when you're asking your friend to meet you the next time. Apple has the advantage of using its in-house silicon and hardware as well as native services and servers to successfully enable on-device processing.
The new privacy website details various avenues where Apple is minimising data collection and using on-device processing to deliver personalised experience without taking plenty of information from your end. Apple has also provided tips to secure their data. The website details the benefits of using Touch ID and Face ID to protect your devices as well as how the Intelligent Tracking Protection feature in Safari can help you stay protected from targeted ads.
The website also explains how the Location Services functionality gives controls to users over their location data. It also underlines the importance of using strong Apple ID passwords and turning on two-factor authentication to protect your Apple ID. Additionally, the website describes phishing and provides ways to protect yourself from phishing.
Apple has also described how user information is shared with apps and services on its products through the new privacy website. There are images and content to detail the ways to manage the sharing of your user data. All in all, the arrival of the new privacy website by the iPhone maker is aimed to reveal the thinking that has been done in the recent past to improve privacy across all Apple devices. Moreover, it shows the competitive edge that the company has thanks to the progress it has made in the world of privacy and security.