Apple privacy page opens data download to US users

Chris Davies - Oct 17, 2018, 11:21 am CDT
Apple privacy page opens data download to US users

Apple has launched a new privacy site allowing users of iPhone, macOS, and other products to see just what data the Cupertino firm has on them. The US expansion of the service follows its debut in Europe earlier this year, as Apple complied with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules imposed by the European Union.

It’s part of a push by Apple to position itself as the privacy-minded tech behemoth, a reputation which has become increasingly valuable as data exploits, hacks, and questions around how personal information is used become more prevalent. Earlier this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook gave a scathing critique of companies which expect users to be content with “trading away your right to privacy” in order to get the most features.

Although Cook did not mention Facebook or Google by name, the speech was widely interpreted as a snub of both. “So we choose a different path: collecting as little of your data as possible,” the chief executive explained. “Being thoughtful and respectful when it’s in our care. Because we know it belongs to you.”

Among the data included in the Apple Privacy personal information cache is their calendar and contacts, any music streaming preferences that Apple Music and other services have built up, and a record of any contact with Apple support – such as product repairs – connected with their account. App Store purchase records, cloud-saved bookmarks, documents, and other files will also be included.

It’s not, actually, the first time that you’ve been able to access all this information, mind. Apple has been willing to share it with users before; however it required contacting the company directly to get the data. This new tool does away with that request process.

At the same time, Apple is also building out its privacy page in general. The section now gives much greater detail on what Apple collects as part of its various products and services, and how that data is used and safely stored. It also explains how Apple reacts to things like government and law enforcement requests for disclosure

Tempering just how much data you inadvertently share when you’re using the internet and other services has been a frequent theme for Apple over the past few years. Recent updates to Safari, Apple’s browser, have moved to prevent so-called user “fingerprinting” in which a trail of sites accessed can be used to build up a profile of preferences and demographic data. That can be valuable to marketers, but many people aren’t even aware that they’re leaving behind such a trail.

Apple’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention systems promise to obscure some of that trail, stopping sites from gathering more information than they explicitly need. The feature rolled out as part of iOS 12 and macOS Mojave.

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