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Apple overhauls its privacy pages, and now lets U.S. customers download their own data

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Apple has refreshed and expanded its privacy website, a month after its most recent iPhone and Mac launches. You’re not going to see much change from previous years — the privacy pages still state the same commitments that Apple’s long held, like that privacy is a “fundamental human right” and that your information is largely on your iPhones, iPads and Macs.

And, now with a bevy of new security and privacy features in iOS 12 and macOS Mojave, the pages are updated to include new information about end-to-end encrypted group FaceTime video calls and improvements to intelligence tracking protections — and, how it uses differential privacy to understand which are the most popular features so it can improve, without being able to identify individual users.

One key addition this time around: Apple is expanding its data portal to allow U.S. customers to get a copy of the data that the company stores on them.

It’s the same portal that EU customers have been able to use since May, when the new EU-wide data protection rules — known as General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR — went into effect. That mandated companies operating in Europe to allow customers to obtain a copy of their own data.

Apple’s making good on its promise earlier this year that it would expand the feature to U.S. customers. Customers in Canada, Australia and New Zealand can also request their data.

But because the company doesn’t store that much data on you in the first place — don’t expect too much back. When I asked Apple for my own data, the company turned over only a few megabytes of spreadsheets, including my order and purchase histories, and marketing information. Any other data that Apple stores is either encrypted — so it can’t turn over — or was only held for a short amount of time and was deleted.

That’s a drop in the ocean compared to data hungry services like Facebook and Google, which compiled an archive of my data ranging from a few hundred megabytes to over a couple of gigabytes of data.

Apple refreshes its privacy pages once a year, usually a month or so after its product launches. It first launched its dedicated privacy pages in 2014, but aggressively began pushing back against claims revealed after the NSA surveillance scandal. A year later, the company blew up the traditional privacy policy in 2015 by going more full-disclosure than any other tech giant at the time.

Since then, its pages have expanded and continued to transparently lay out how the company encrypts user data on its devices, so not even the company can read it — and, when data is uploaded, how it’s securely processed and stored.

 

How to download your data from Apple

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Good news! Apple now allows U.S. customers to download a copy of their data, months after rolling out the feature to EU customers.

But don’t be disappointed when you get your download and find there’s almost nothing in there. Earlier this year when I requested my own data (before the portal feature rolled out), Apple sent me a dozen spreadsheets with my purchase and order history, a few iCloud logs, and some of my account information. The data will date back to when you opened your account, but may not include recent data if Apple has no reason to retain it.

But because most Apple data is stored on your devices, it can’t turn over what it doesn’t have. And any data it collects from Apple News, Maps and Siri is anonymous and can’t attribute to individual users.

Apple has a short support page explaining the kind of data it will send back to you.

If you’re curious — here’s how you get your data.

1. Go to Apple’s privacy portal
You need to log in to privacy.apple.com with your Apple ID and password, and enter your two-factor authentication code if you have it set-up.

2. Request a copy of your data
From here, tap on “Obtain a copy of your data” and select the data that you would like to download — or hit “select all.” You will also have the option of splitting the download into smaller portions.

3. Go through the account verification steps
Apple will verify that you’re the account holder, and may ask you for several bits of information. Once the data is ready to download, you’ll get a notification that it’s available for download, and you’ll have two weeks to download the .zip file.

If the “obtain your data” option isn’t immediately available, it may still take time to roll out to all customers.

 

Source: TechCrunch