How to see everything Apple knows about you (u)

Apple has at last introduced a new tool that lets you request and download everything the company knows about you. Here is how to use it.

Apple, iOS, macOS, privacy, security, GDPR, iCloud
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Apple has at last introduced a new tool that lets you request and download everything the company knows about you, including all the data it gathers and retains when using the company’s retail outlets, iCloud, apps, products, and services.

Why is this tool available?

In part, Apple has made this information available to bring it into line with Europe’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) legislation, laws designed to better protect individual privacy in an online age.

Google, Facebook, Twitter, and almost every other company has also had to introduce these tools, making it far easier for users to compare the quantity and depth of information these unconstrained corporations hold about them.

This is particularly necessary following the revelations that company’s such as Cambridge Analytica have been using access to such data in political campaigning.

Unlike most industry peers, Apple has always argued for strong customer privacy.

“We’ve never believed that these detailed profiles of people, that have incredibly deep personal information that is patched together from several sources, should exist,” Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said. They can be “abused against our democracy.”

What sort of information does Apple keep?

Apple doesn’t keep anything like the quantity of personal data its competitors keep. The information it does keep is frequently anonymized; it doesn’t keep location data, but does keep hold of information concerning apps and other digital products you purchase. It holds lists of all the books, music, movies, and in-app purchases. It also tracks when you update apps. You’ll also find it lists all your iTunes Match-stored tracks.

Information Apple keeps includes:

  • Apple ID
  • Credit requests
  • Software updates
  • Apps and digital purchases (including app updates).
  • iTunes Match tracks
  • Product purchases and serial numbers
  • Customer support queries
  • Repairs
  • Apple Retail Store class registrations
  • Survey participation
  • Gift certificates
  • Apple forum activity

Other items are noted in Apple’s Privacy Policy.

How do you get information Apple has about you?

Apple states:

“When a privacy question or access/download request is received, we have a dedicated team which triages the contacts and seeks to address the specific concern or query which you are seeking to raise.”

Follow these steps to check your information:

  • Visit Apple’s Privacy Policy page – it’s worth reading this, as there’s a lot of information there.
  • Look for the section titled Access to Personal Information, and tap the Privacy Contact Form.
  • You’ll be asked to select the region that you are in.
  • In the next section, choose "I have a question about privacy issues."
  • Fill in the next page, and in the comments field write, “I am requesting a copy of my personal information.
  • Click submit.

Update: Apple is now rolling out improved Privacy and Apple ID controls in the EU. These may not be available where you are, but you can find out more about them here.

What happens next?

After you file this request, Apple’s privacy team will make contact to confirm who you are. They will also request some data to prove you are who you say you are.

Once it is satisfied that you are who you claim to be, the team will gather the data and provide it to you as a locked zip file. The unlock passcode is provided as a separate email. The process can take up to a week. 

If you find any errors in the data, you can request Apple change or delete the error.

Apple warns that it "may decline to process requests that are frivolous/vexatious, jeopardize the privacy of others, are extremely impractical, or for which access is not otherwise required by local law."

One more thing about Apple ID security

It cannot be stressed how important your Apple ID is becoming. Not only does it enable access to all the data Apple holds about you, but it unlocks all your personal data in the cloud, from images to emails, documents, and more. Given the presence of devices to hack data from your iOS devices and the constancy of cyber crime, I cannot stress enough the need to use complex passcodes.

Further information

Apple as a company has an extensive privacy governance structure as described in this document. Apple’s privacy policies, tools, and reports are described in much more detail at the Privacy section of its website.

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