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lock and key, protection, security, apple privacy, mac, ipad, iphone, macbook pro

Is Apple Your Privacy Protector?

They would like to be. All the tech giants say they are protecting your privacy but Apple has made it part of their corporate values. Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook has said that privacy is a “fundamental human right”. For those that are worried about the security of their data in the cloud and on their devices, this is music to their ears.

The two main places for the average user to store their documents in the cloud are Google Photos and Apple Photos. In this document I broke down a comparison of cloud software out there for people to consider. For ease of use, functionality and affordability, Google and Apple were at the top. I spoke about using Google Photos and their approach to privacy in this post. Now we need to look at Apple.

The essential difference between the two cloud services providers, besides Apple’s CEO’s passion for privacy, is how they make their money. Google makes money off of your data by selling target audience compilations to advertisers. Apple’s primary income comes from hardware.

The company’s main argument for why it’s a better steward of customers’ privacy is that it has no interest in collecting personal data across its browser or developer network. It simply doesn’t need to, because it doesn’t make its money off advertising.(1)

So Apple has the benefit of not needing your data to exist or move forward. Like Google they have created an easy to read Privacy Policy and Transparency Report. But unlike their competition, Apple has gone further by developing new technologies for security on their devices such as Touch ID and Face ID as well as designing data protection embeded in their ios operating software and Safari.(3) Apple goes out of its way to make sure your devices can’t be hacked and that your information is secure. Apple has been keen on protecting your data since the days of Steve Jobs.

In their Privacy Policy they break down how the data they do collect regarding your home, health, icloud keychain (passwords), online payments, siri info, and wifi must use end to end encryption. This means that no third party can read the information in transit. Only the user can view the information when they are signed into their account. Two factor authentication is also encouraged for their devices.

The data they do collect to improve your “experience” is not connected to your personal ID and is generalized. The data that is collected via Apple Pay, imessage or Facetime is encrypted and protected by “Secure Enclave” on the device. It is not saved to Apple servers or backed up to icloud. In their Transparency report that describes the requests for information they receive from government bodies they speak of how they don’t allow for any direct or back door access and that all requests must meet applicable laws and that apple only provides the narrowest possibly set of data.

You can control your privacy settings through your apple account and it is very much worth your time to read through their Privacy Policy as it does make clear those moments when they do use your information.

As is true of most internet services, we gather some information automatically and store it in log files. This information includes Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, browser type and language, Internet service provider (ISP), referring and exit websites and applications, operating system, date/time stamp, and clickstream data.

We use this information to understand and analyze trends, to administer the site, to learn about user behavior on the site, to improve our product and services, and to gather demographic information about our user base as a whole. Apple may use this information in our marketing and advertising services.

Of course, no company is perfect and though, in light of the Facebook / Cambridge Analytics crisis this year, many companies, including Apple, are buckling down on how their privacy settings work, Apple still has its weaknesses.

The problem is with the apps that are developed for the apple devices. These may have access to your contact info and any sensitive information you have stored there. Apple says it forbids these companies from collecting, using or selling this information but it has no way of controlling it. Once it has approved an app there is little oversight. This is the same scenario that got Facebook in trouble. (4) Apple has said,

The relationship between the app developer and the user is direct, and it is the developer’s obligation to collect and use data responsibly.

So user beware. As with all things online, don’t assume anything. Make sure you understand what you are buying into. Check the settings of the apps you use to make sure you are not sharing your contacts with third parties. Unfortunately, any change to your settings now will not delete any information you may have already shared.

As a side note, it is a good idea not to use your social media passwords as sign in for other apps and websites. If you are concerned about information that is shared with third party apps, there are ways of shutting them down by going into your account information and clicking on Settings and then Apps. This works for Facebook and other social media sites.

Full disclosure, if you hadn’t guessed, I am a Mac user. I used PC devices most of my career and only moved to Mac reluctantly. However, I have become a convert to their ease of use if not their cost. As for Privacy, I like what Apple is saying. I like it way better than Google. Maybe that’s my age speaking but I see no reason to share my personal information with the world. I don’t need product suggestions or auto fill for my forms and searching. I don’t need to give up information for convenience. I want to think for myself. It takes more work but in the end I get to have more control over my environment. As Tim Cook says, the question comes down to what kind of world do we want to live in.

Technology is capable of doing great things. But it doesn’t want to do great things. It doesn’t want anything. That part takes all of us.(5)

Other Reading:

Facebook’s app cleanup maybe be harder than Mark Zuckerberg thinks

Why Europe not Congress will rein in big tech

Transcript of Tim Cooks’ EU privacy speech

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Comments

  • Tim Johnston
    REPLY

    Thanks for that Leni. Good point about passwords and I don’t really like when the computer assumes how I am going to finish my sentence.

    December 7, 2018
  • Patrick Johnston
    REPLY

    Interesting write up. Useful information.

    December 8, 2018
  • Gord
    REPLY

    Can I use Apple Photos without owning Apple hardware?

    December 8, 2018

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