We live on an increasingly connected planet. Technology and automation are transforming every part of life, and while many don’t yet realize it, privacy is becoming essential.
This is a shining example of how easy to understand, transparent and clear such a document should be. It sets a bar other tech firms should follow.
Though they don’t.
That’s why the Electronic Frontier Foundation awards Apple a five-star rating for its privacy efforts. Google achieves just three stars.
The lack of transparency standards means it isn’t possible to compare Apple’s privacy attempts with those promised by more opaque competitors, though Android users switching to iPhone 6S for the fantastic new camera should begin to use Apple Maps if they care about their privacy.
You see, unlike Google Maps, Apple Maps doesn’t demand a sign-in, and when you ask for travel details your request is sliced into sections so no one can figure your final destination out. “Helping you get from Point A to Point B matters a great deal to us, but knowing the history of all your Point A’s and Point B’s doesn’t,” Apple explains.
Reading through the policy it is crystal-clear Apple is making active attempts to minimize the information it collects about you, and will anonymize any such data it does collect.
One key difference is that for almost every service, recommendations or service responses are “created locally on your device and are not sent to Apple”.
That’s important as it means the actual information is rarely shared across the Internet, which (as Snowden confirmed) is no longer a private place.
Some examples include Apple News, which anonymizes any data it gathers concerning your reading preferences; Health and fitness data is isolated on the device with its own encryption key; Spotlight Search, which lacks a persistent personal identifier to tie your searches to you in order to build a profile based on your search history.
These attempts even extend to use of third-party data centers Apple may need to employ when dealing with peak demand. Most cloud service providers use what’s called data warehouses like these to extend available storage at times. Apple has thought about this use and explains that when it does use such services to store your iCloud information, the data is encrypted and the encryption key is never shared with the third party firms.
The site also makes it clear how much the company is resisting the (utterly unworkable) attempt by law enforcement to undermine encryption, explaining:
“Encryption protects trillions of online transactions every day. Whether you’re shopping or paying a bill, you’re using encryption. It turns your data into indecipherable text that can only be read by the right key... And we can’t unlock your device for anyone because you hold the key -- your unique password. We’re committed to using powerful encryption because you should know that the data on your device and the information you share with others is protected.”
However, Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA) opponents recently protested against Apple’s decision to sign a letter in support of the controversial CISA Act, which would make tech firms “able to share personal data with government, enabling more surveillance and violations of civil liberties.”
It is to be hoped that Apple’s decision to sign the letter does not mean any dilution in its commitment to privacy. However, it also seems clear that every technology firm should match the transparency and commitment shown within Apple’s new privacy pages. It really is up to you to insist on this.
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