Apple’s hardware and software platforms are differentiated from Windows PCs, Windows, and Android-based smartphones in a variety of areas; but assume that most hardware works about the same, then differentiation must be about device quality, software usability, and user privacy and security.
There are many reasons why Apple goes to great lengths to gather usable customer information without invading said customer’s privacy, but let’s roll with the basic one that should be, but isn’t always so obvious.
Apple’s latest from the Differential Privacy Team (Apple’s term for how it collects data from you that is not tied to you is Learning With Privacy at Scale. It’s a long read with detailed methods on how Apple does what it does to collect, massage, scrub, filter, and then shape your personal information into something usable but that is not and cannot be traced back to you.
Liam Tung does a good job compressing Apple’s perspective into data collection and privacy policies and it will take less time to read and understand the second line of the company’s basic approach.
This type of data collection occurs when users opt in to share usage analytics from macOS or iOS, allowing Apple to collect “privatized records”.
You have a choice to share or not to share. Does Google or Amazon give you similar choices at the device level?
Why collect data from your device and usage at all?
Apple introduced differential privacy in iOS 10 in support of new data collection aimed at improving QuickType, emoji suggestions, Spotlight suggestions, and media playback features in Safari.
Apple doesn’t know who you are from the data it collects and, unlike Google, Amazon, et al, does not care.
The system works on the basis that statistical noise can be added to data on the device before it’s shared with Apple.
Why does Apple bother to collect data? Information is necessary to improve products. It’s that simple. Just as simple is why Google, Amazon, and others collect personal data from your devices.
Apple’s business model is different than Google, Amazon, and advertisers. Apple’s revenue and profits come from hardware sales, and with more than 1-billion active customers, the company seems to be doing well with revenue, profits, shareholder value, customer satisfaction, and data collection that does not infringe upon your right to your personal information.
Compare that to Google’s business model which primarily is advertising. Google tracks users all over the interwebs, scouring devices for personal pieces of information which then are packaged for sale to advertisers. That’s why when you search for whatever on Google, Amazon, and elsewhere, you’re inundated with additional advertising for weeks thereafter. They know who you are, which websites you visit, which applications you use, and that knowledge is specific down to your name, family, residence, work, habits, health, and much more.
Apple does not invade your privacy is that way because it does not need to. Revenue and profits come from hardware sales, not giving away the free candy of applications and search results to add more data to the personal dossier the way Google, Amazon, and others do with seeming ease and impunity.
What about Apple’s quickly growing Services division? Without hardware sales and a billion customers using Apple’s hardware, how big would Services be. Apple needs to capture customer and user data, yes, but only to make the product better, which means anonymization is a thing and a good thing.