Apple has made headlines recently after implementing a new privacy feature on the iPhone, preventing app developers from collecting personal data of users without their consent. Users have been flocking to Apple’s App Store, thrilled to know that they can keep their information under wraps and out of the hands of corporations and government agencies. But while you may think you’re safe from Apple’s data auction, you might not be so sure about the company’s other products… Apple’s Data Auction: How the tech giant is cashing in on your personal information
Why you should care about data privacy
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As Apple recently admitted, it tracks your location to provide you with personalized services, then auctioning off that data to other companies. It may seem harmless, but there are a number of reasons why you should care about who has access to that data. First of all, technology companies track our locations because they can — not because they need to — and without regulations they will continue doing so. Apple and Google both claim that they only sell anonymized user data but those claims are questionable at best; imagine if you had a bank account that collected all sorts of financial information (your transactions) with no names attached to it. Who would want access to it? The answer is anyone who wants to sell you something or win an election by surveying what you’ve been up too.
Is it really any different from what other companies do?
Apple has announced new privacy features, designed to reassure its customers that it’s not ruthlessly mining their data. The reality, though, is that there are a number of steps other companies take to get hold of user data. Apple simply provides more transparency. Because while it may be more upfront about how it goes about making money from you, it’s still using you for that purpose nonetheless—just like all its competitors.
What happened before Apple released this update?
Prior to issuing these security patches, researchers claimed that Apple had a master key to unlock its devices. This claim was met with skepticism by independent experts who said that there was no master key—only various ways of cracking a device. By introducing these new privacy features into its platform, Apple can now collect more detailed user data and usage habits without running afoul of scrutiny. While details are scarce at present, it appears as though Apple will share some of that data with third-party app developers who license certain levels of access to device use through Apple’s own developer program. This means that app makers will not have access to everyone’s phone data but rather only their own targeted subset.
But I don’t use an iPhone.
If you’re uncomfortable with how much Apple knows about you, there are a few things you can do to limit how much it tracks. For example, go into settings and turn off location services (you don’t need to share where you are 24/7). You can also disable third-party apps from tracking your activity. But keep in mind that while some of these settings will reduce Apple’s data collection, they might negatively impact your experience using Apple products. Just as importantly, if you’re not comfortable with how much Facebook knows about you, for example, then stop using Facebook—it’ll protect your data regardless of what privacy settings are enabled.
So, what can we do now?
To start, use programs like Firefox and Disconnect to block third-party cookies. Doing so will stop advertisers from following you around as you browse. This won’t solve all of our problems, but it does eliminate a large chunk of it. Also, download TrackOFF for Google Chrome. It lets you see exactly what websites are tracking your location and serving up targeted ads (for instance, every time I search for gym, an ad shows up from a local gym). While Google’s free version isn’t too invasive, there are ways to make it much more private. For example, one way to stop Google is by only using DuckDuckGo as a search engine instead—the site has less sophisticated tracking mechanisms than Google or Bing do by default.
Does Apple sell your personal information?
We all know Apple can sell a lot of our personal data and preferences when we use Apple products and services. In 2015, Tim Cook acknowledged it by saying: We don’t think you want us to read your email or your messages. We’re not going to do those things. And yet recent reports revealed that iPhones come with a pre-installed app that enables advertisers track people and monitor their iPhone activity even if they have never downloaded any apps!
Does Apple sell your data to advertisers?
When we ask Does Apple sell your data to advertisers?, many of us don’t expect an answer. The question itself has been around for years and still remains a mystery that hasn’t been cracked. But some users now claim they have proof to support such allegations—and it comes straight from Apple. It all started when Reddit user dark_awake posted a picture of an email he got from Apple Support saying his account was being shut down because his credit card had expired. It does make sense, as I last logged into my iCloud account about 2 years ago, dark_awake wrote on Reddit.
What data does Apple collect on me?
Apple doesn’t publicly disclose everything it collects about its users, but what we do know is extensive. A list of data that Apple collects includes emails, browser history, call history, text messages and every photo ever taken with an iPhone. Now that Apple has opened up health tracking to third-party developers using HealthKit and ResearchKit, how much more of our health data will they be able to collect? The answer: It depends which apps you use. While it may seem more convenient to let a few apps track data from my phone — like I’m tired, or I’m exercising — I want to be fully aware of how much sensitive health data can be collected through my phone without my knowledge. And whether or not I want a company like Apple controlling it for me.
Does Apple profit off user data?
No. Apple does not sell users’ personal data. Privacy and security are built into Apple products, and key services are free of charge, such as Messages, FaceTime, iCloud and more. For example, iMessage uses end-to-end encryption so that Apple and others can’t read messages or listen to calls. This level of encryption protects communications between devices and their apps. When you use Siri, your voice recordings are encrypted on device and sent securely to Apple servers where they remain encrypted until you instruct Siri to perform a search for an answer or a task. And if you choose to use iCloud backup for an iPhone, iPad or Mac computer, it will encrypt all backups by default. This means that when law enforcement presents us with a valid subpoena seeking customer content such as email stored on our servers, we can’t provide it—we don’t have access to it. And because iOS devices automatically encrypt backed up data using keys protected by your passcode—which only you know—we don’t have access to those either.
Does Apple share your data with government?
It’s no secret that Apple is collecting a lot of data about its users, and in 2015 they were publicly criticized for it. But a new report says that they’re not sharing user data with governments—they’re selling it. It turns out that selling user data may be just another way of saying sharing user data, but what can we do about it? In order to understand how Apple does business, we first need to have an understanding of their business model. If we look at what other companies are doing with their profits, we can see how Apple does things differently—and why so many people are upset about their policy.
Does Apple track your data?
Yes, Apple collects user data. On its website, Apple notes that it collects and stores information when you use our products and services (like looking up movie times), or use apps created by Apple. That doesn’t necessarily mean that Apple has access to all of that data now. However, one might argue that if you don’t want your behavior tracked for ad targeting purposes, then you should limit how much personal data you’re transmitting when using a device or app.