It’s not that I think Apple really wants to be caught spying upon its customers, but the company does seem to have ever more methods that can be used to capture even more information about us and use it against us. Or, worse, be compelled to hand over information to government authorities to be used against us.
What caught my eye this week is a growing list of methodologies and an event that triggered my Spidey-sense into action. AccuWeather, my favorite iPhone and iPad weather app, was caught sending collecting and retrieving location data even when users set the app to Don’t Allow access to location.
Bad, AccuWeather. Bad.
Why wasn’t AccuWeather banned from the App Store? Obviously, the data harvesting was against Apple policy and the company has banned other apps for similar actions. AccuWeather has an in-app purchase option which brings money to Apple, and as one of the most popular weather apps, it’s likely Apple cut the developers a little slack, but in this case the captured user data was sent to a third party company to help monetize the AccuWeather app.
Bad, AccuWeather. Bad.
So, I deleted AccuWeather from my iPhone, iPad, and Watch.
Data collection is just one way Apple provides tools that can be used to spy on us, to monetize an app, or to determine where and when an app is used, or even how the iPhone itself is being used. Recent iPhones have a Siri-always-on feature which means Siri is always listening. Try this: “Hey, Siri… what’s my location?” Siri knows.
Rumor has it that Apple’s highly touted and much beloved Touch ID fingerprint sensor will be replaced with a 3D Face ID recognition system in future devices. Apparently, this new technology is better than Touch ID, faster, and even more secure. More secure than a fingerprint scanner? We’ll see.
The technology sends a spray of infrared light toward our faces, and then tracks the light bouncing back to the sensors, which instantly calculates the shape of a face. That means photos and 3D impressions won’t work. But it also means 3D Face ID– let me call it Siri’s eyes– may be able to sense expressions, too. Anger, sadness, happiness, fatigue, or anything else humans express on our faces, could be captured and used by Siri (Siri’s eyes) to initiate a conversation or perhaps a fail-safe routine to lock down your iPhone.
For example, 3D Face ID may recognize your face and unlock your iPhone but only if one specific eye is closed. Leave both eyes open and Siri would keep the iPhone locked from intruders.
It could happen.
Already our iPhone’s know our location, know our voices, know our fingerprints, and soon will know what we look like. And by tracking other information it collects, know where we’re going and when we’re likely to return and perhaps who we’ll meet along the way. Oh, and what business we transact while using the device.
All these ways to spy on us are beginning to creep me out.