Apple is turning privacy from a marketing thrust to a service it “sells” to its customers. Although it denies taking shots at anyone, its stronger stance on privacy, not to mention the new features it announced at WWDC this week, clearly distances itself from the likes of Facebook and Google. It doesn’t come without a price, though it might not immediately be evident. Like the new “Find My” location tracking that is promised to be better and more secure but will require you to have two Apple devices under your name.
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Locating lost or stolen devices can be a tricky thing. Many OEMs and third-party apps offer ways to find such devices but they mostly require users to upload that device’s location to somewhere. In Apple’s case, Find my iPhone and Find Friends, despite promises of privacy, still exposes that Apple to data itself, something the company says it doesn’t want to even know about.
That’s why it’s rolling out a new “Find My” feature with stronger privacy protections. At first, it may sound like doing the opposite because it makes Apple devices constantly broadcast a Bluetooth signal even when they’re offline. The purpose is so that, even when the device is hibernating, it will be possible to locate it.
The stronger privacy comes via end-to-end encryption but rather than simply having some key that can be stolen, Find My requires a second Apple device to hold the decryption key. Owners who only have a single Apple device in their possession will have to settle for the older and less secure technologies.
Storing keys on local devices also lets Apple wash its hands of legal culpability. Just like with iPhone encryption, authorities won’t be able to force Apple to disclose the location of a device because it doesn’t have the ability to do so. It is definitely a more secure and more private way to recover lost Apple devices but it won’t matter much for people who can’t afford to have more than one Apple device in their possession.