In 2020, Apple hit a major achievement in the Tech Industry. Apple surpassed 1.5 billion active devices around the world according to this article. Many people buy Apple products for ‘higher status’, for iMessage, ‘it's just convenient to buy an iPhone’, etc. But some people buy Apple products for only one reason: privacy. Privacy has become one of the most relevant topics since the birth of social media and the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica Data Scandal. Apple has now become the face of privacy. Wall Street Journal even uploaded many videos about Apple's stance on privacy and how the new 14.5 iOS update would destroy social media companies like Facebook. Unfortunately, in reality, Apple doesn’t care about its users’ privacy. Users’ data is a valuable asset for any company, and no company would leave this wonderful opportunity to monopolize and capitalize on, including Apple.
In this article I would explain:
- Data collected by Apple
- Thing About Identifiers
- Power of Defaults
- Apple’s double life
- Why is Apple Collecting your Data Despite Being a Hardware Company?
Data Collected by Apple
Apple collects every single piece of data they are able to do from users. Apple collects your age, health information, location, and ‘non-personal data’. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Apple shares movement data, POI data and aggregated user analytics with our mapping partners. However, data is shared only if certain minimum thresholds are met in order to prevent these partners from correlating this information back to any specific Maps user. [click here to view source]
Apple’s vague description allows them to use your data and share it with third parties without getting in trouble. Here, Apple fails to mention the criteria for the usage of data. What are ‘minimum thresholds’, Apple?
Because your location can give away your identity, we convert precise locations to less exact locations before storing them. We apply this to current device location and origin of your route within 24 hours. [click here to view source]
Once again, what is ‘less exact location’? And why are storing my location for 24 hours?
Apple also collects data of how you use Apple News, stores transcripts of your interactions with Siri and Dictation, and review these transcripts, history of Ask Siri & Dictation is stored for 6 months with an identifier, Apple also records and stores some information related to your use of iMessage and FaceTime, Apple also collects data when you facetime your friend for 30 days, Apple also stores phone numbers and email addresses for up to 30 days.
Apple collects your location data to ‘provide more relevant recommendations’. Apple also collects your IP address to show ‘relevant geographical search results and news’. While reporting issues on Apple Maps, Apple collects your fricking home and work address, the results of your lastest search! It gets even worse when you Siri.
Apple saves contact numbers, nicknames, relationships, apps you have downloaded, label lists like people’s names in photos and audio recordings! Apple even uses your IP address to deliver “relevant ads”. If your location Services are turned on then Apple gathers and uses your location information to deliver “more relevant suggestions”. This also applies to third parties but the most important thing to note is that Location Services are already turned on by default. And because of this, Apple gathers and uses your location information and you will never about it.
[Sources: Location Services & Privacy]
Many people use Safari as their primary web browser as users think that Safari is one of the safest browsers as it blocks third-party trackers. But just because it blocks trackers and cookies doesn’t mean that Apple won’t use your web search data. Apple uses your messages, notifications, analyzes how to use your device and apps, emails, browsing history, and even contacts! Not to mention the data sent to Apple by apps installed on your devices. Apple says that the information sent to Apple Servers is non-personal/information that doesn’t identify the user. But the very next line says that Apple devices may send my information to Apple. My location is personal data and any company can identify me with this data.
From the above screenshot, you can also see that your Apple device sends information about the topics you like, things you have searched on the web, suggestions you have selected, and apps you use the most to Apple servers.
And also you can clearly see Apple’s vague definition of ‘information that doesn’t identify you’.
[source: Safari Search & Privacy]
Thing about Identifiers
Power of Defaults
If Apple really cared about your privacy, they wouldn’t collect data in a million years. And even if they wanted to while still respecting your privacy, they would ask your permission before collecting your data. But because these ‘services’ are turned on by default, the general public has no idea about it. People most of the time keep the default settings as it is because it is very inconvenient. Who wants to spend half an hour changing the settings? No one. Literally, no one wants to do that. And because of this many tech companies including Apple program the default settings in such a way that they are able to collect as much information as possible.
Apple’s Double Life
On the outside, Apple is able to showcase itself as the only good company that cares about your privacy. They are able to convince everyone to buy iPhones and other Apple products as they say “Privacy. That’s iPhone.” or “What happens in iPhone, stays in iPhone.” [Apple should also be called out for misleading Ads about privacy.]. But Apple doesn’t target people who actually protect their privacy online as they know that no tech company can be trusted. Apple targets someone who knows nothing about online privacy and how tech companies collect data. And that someone is unfortunately most of the general public.
And because of this Apple’s reputation isn’t terrible when it comes to privacy. Apple should be called out for misleading Ads about privacy. Even WallStreatJournal invited Craig Fredrigi to explain how Apple’s new iOS update “cares about users’ privacy”. WallStreatJournal should have just done more research before inviting one of Apple’s executives to tell people how awesome Apple is — Like that would be a really unbiased video. Anyways, because of this privacy image, Apple is able to get away from stealing your data. Nypost posted an article about how iPhones are secretly looking at your breasts. If Facebook did something like that, then everyone would be talking about it. News channels, you and your friends, your neighbors, literally anyone would be talking about this. But because it's Apple, they are able to get away from this.
Why is Apple Collecting your Data Despite Being a Hardware Company?
Since 2015, iPhone sales stunted. As phones were getting better and better, people bought fewer iPhones. People never needed to replace their iPhones every year or so. To counter this/to maximize profits, Apple slowly increased the prices of new iPhones. But still, revenue didn’t increase. The revenue graph remained a plateau. Apple realized that it couldn’t just sell iPhones and other Apple products to make its investors happy. They needed something that people would buy every month/year or so. They needed to provide various services to get the revenue they couldn’t get from iPhone sales. That’s why Apple needed its users to buy these services. Apple could just spend a lot of money on Ads to show you the services they provide [not to mention the Ads of third-party companies also shown to you by Apple][And also sharing of ‘non-personal data to strategic partners], but how can they do that more efficiently? Well, by collecting your data to know more about you and show you Ads about Apple’s services that you are most likely to buy. And in this way, Apple spends a lot less money on Ads and gets a lot of revenue from the services you just bought.
And also, as we are talking about Ads, Apple does little to nothing t prevent targeted Ads. The users have to go to Settings > Privacy > Apple Advertising and tap View Ad Targeting Information to see which information is used by companies to target you with Ads. Apple has developed no software to prevent this.
At the end of the day, you should buy Apple devices if you like the ‘Apple ecosystem’. But you should never buy iPhone for privacy reasons only. If you own any Apple devices, turn off all settings like personalized Ads, Siri suggestions, etc. Do not back up your files, photos, etc. on iCloud. Please don’t do that. Because encryption of files, messages, etc. doesn’t work when you back it up on iCloud [same with Google Drive]. I recommend a great playlist by The Hated One about protecting your privacy. And also, Apple should be held accountable for false advertising and lying to users. News companies like CNN, CNBC, Fox News, WallStreatJournal, NewYorkTimes, Forbes, many others should also be held accountable for not exposing the lies of big tech companies. Heck, Forbes even published an article praising Apple for “caring about users’ privacy”. Even WallStreatJournal invited Craig Frederigi to explain Apple’s new privacy features without even doing any research.
Apple doesn’t have any incentives to protect your privacy — No company does. That’s why it is very necessary to make a law that would make companies protect your privacy and not use your data for self-interest reasons.