Apple reaffirms commitment to protecting privacy everywhere, including China

Apple reaffirms commitment to protecting privacy, including in China

Following China's decision to call iOS location tracking a threat to their national security, Apple has posted a lengthy article on its Chinese website, both in Chinese and English, reaffirming their longstanding commitment to privacy. According to Apple:

Privacy is built into our products and services from the earliest stages of design. We work tirelessly to deliver the most secure hardware and software in the world. Unlike many companies, our business does not depend on collecting large amounts of personal data about our customers. We are strongly committed to giving our customers clear and transparent notice, choice and control over their information, and we believe our products do this in a simple and elegant way.

We appreciate CCTV's effort to help educate customers on a topic we think is very important. We want to make sure all of our customers in China are clear about what we do and we don't do when it comes to privacy and your personal data.

iOS is a security- and privacy-first operating system. The iPhone and iPad have been called amazing instances of applied cryptography with, in all cases where it wouldn't prevent functionality, not even apple having the keys to the data kingdoms.

Apple has taken pains to not only make customer data safe, but to make convenience features like suggested locations and geo-fences easy to refuse, and easy to switch off if don't initially refuse them but later change your mind. In point of fact, every iPhone or iPad, on setup, asks if you want location and other services enabled.

Would that everyone were as careful with data as Apple. Perhaps, for some, that's what makes it consternating?

You can find the full statement below, and the Chinese version in the source link below that.

Your Location Privacy Apple is deeply committed to protecting the privacy of all our customers. Privacy is built into our products and services from the earliest stages of design. We work tirelessly to deliver the most secure hardware and software in the world. Unlike many companies, our business does not depend on collecting large amounts of personal data about our customers. We are strongly committed to giving our customers clear and transparent notice, choice and control over their information, and we believe our products do this in a simple and elegant way.

We appreciate CCTV's effort to help educate customers on a topic we think is very important. We want to make sure all of our customers in China are clear about what we do and we don't do when it comes to privacy and your personal data.

Our customers want and expect their mobile devices to be able to quickly and reliably determine their current locations for specific activities such as shopping, travel, finding the nearest restaurant or calculating the amount of time it takes them to get to work. We do this at the device level. Apple does not track users' locations – Apple has never done so and has no plans to ever do so.

Calculating a phone's location using just GPS satellite data can take several minutes. iPhone can reduce this time to just a few seconds by using pre-stored WLAN hotspot and cell tower location data in combination with information about which hotspots and cell towers are currently being received by the iPhone. In order to accomplish this goal, Apple maintains a secure crowd-sourced database containing known locations of cell towers and WLAN hotspots that Apple collects from millions of Apple devices. It's important to point out that during this collection process, an Apple device does not transmit any data that is uniquely associated with the device or the customer.

Apple gives customers control over collection and use of location data on all our devices. Customers have to make the choice to enable Location Services, it is not a default setting. Apple does not allow any app to receive device location information without first receiving the user's explicit consent through a simple pop-up alert. This alert is mandatory and cannot be overridden. Customers may change their mind and opt-out of Location Services for individual apps or services at any time by using simple "On/Off" switches. When a user turns "Off" location data for an app or service, it stops collecting the data. Parents can also use Restrictions to prevent access by their children to Location Services.

When it comes to using iPhone for traffic conditions, iOS can capture Frequent Locations to provide commute information in the Today view of Notification Center and to show you automatic routing for iOS in CarPlay. Frequent Locations are only stored on a customer's iOS device, they are not backed up on iTunes or iCloud, and are encrypted. Apple does not obtain or know a user's Frequent Locations and this feature can always be turned "Off" via our privacy settings.

Apple does not have access to Frequent Locations or the location cache on any user's iPhone at any time. We encrypt the cache by the user's passcode and it is protected from access by any app. In the interest of even greater transparency for our customers, if a user enters their passcode successfully, they are able to see the data collected on their device. Once the device is locked no one is able to view that information without entering the passcode.

As we have stated before, Apple has never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will. It's something we feel very strongly about.

Some features may not be available for all countries or all areas.

Source: Apple China via 9to5Mac

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Apple reaffirms commitment to protecting privacy everywhere, including China

16 Comments

Selective memory by Apple when they claim they have never tracked a user location, yet were found doing so in 2011.

Gotta love corporate reality.

A privacy-first company would not collect information, reserve the right not just to collect more information, and certainly not collect the contact information of people you share content with regarding Apple products. But these clauses are all here:

http://www.apple.com/legal/privacy/

Sent from the iMore App

Why wouldn't they, if that's the minimum required, opt-in, to provide the services customers want and expect on modern devices?

You get expressly asked when you're setting up a new device, and Apple has little to no business interest that would push them towards misuse of it.

Many wish Apple would do more with personal data on the cloud, so Siri could provide more Google Now-like services, but so far Apple's not wanted any part of that.

But don't let me stop the FUD train :)

I must have missed where Apple explicitly asked me to opt-in to them collecting my relatives' contact information - much less *them* getting a even a chance to opt in or out.

But don't let me stop the reflexive defensiveness train :)

Sent from the iMore App

You don't have to define relatives in contacts. Doing so gives Siri the ability to do things like "call mom", however.

I believe they explain how it's used otherwise — to process natural language to better match voice searches for them.

They also don't force you to enter in contacts. You can (and I know people who do) just use the dialer.

But don't let me stop the tinfoil hat show :)

If you are going to resort to insults, you could at least do the courtesy of actually reading the privacy policy linked above. Here are Apple's exact words for this one example:

"When you share your content with family and friends using Apple products, send gift certificates and products, or invite others to join you on Apple forums, Apple may collect the information you provide about those people such as name, mailing address, email address, and phone number."

This has *nothing* to do with contacts, or with Siri, which would have been obvious had you followed the link. It is not the privacy policy of a company attempting to minimally impact user privacy, because they could accomplish all of those tasks without collection. There are other, similar examples in Apple's policy statement.

I am not sure what is more disappointing - that somebody who rightfully bristles at the term fanboy himself slings "FUD" at first opportunity, or that he asserts his own position with certainty without considering other evidence when presented.

Sent from the iMore App

The statement clearly says you have to "opt-in" to the collection of data, and they do-so in an anonymous way. If you don't want anonymous data about you tracked by Apple, just turn locations services off.
Apple has also stated before that data transmitted by your device (be it email or SMS or iMessage) is encrypted on both the sending and receiving ends. The FBI hasn't even been able to link users with data via iMessage, nor have they been able to decrypt messages sent or received.
I think what Richard451 is saying is a not entirely accurate. Yes, Apple can track your data, but they do it anonymously and you can opt-out if you like.

There was a bug that allowed the file to be pulled from an iTunes backup. Once it was identified, Apple fixed it in a backup.

Not sure what's damning about that?

what's damning is that one could track the location for a users iPhone for about a year (even when the user told Apple not to track such information). A picture is worth a thousand words and all when caught with visual evidence, all Apple could respond to is; "it's a bug".

Say what you want about Google and privacy, but at least they weren't caught using spyware like CarrierIQ, unlike Apple.

"We don't collect data unless you allow us to collect data to serve you better."

Sounds like Google. You can turn all of that off in Google as well but then the phone does not work as well or do as much as you may expect. Like Apple.

But thanks for another Apple PR job, Rene.

Posted via the Android iMore App!

I agree with you 1000% he care more about the company apple the people that actually uses the devices. No company is perfect but damn his head is too far up apples ass. At least google tells you straight up what they are doing. Apple on the other hand do the same thing but describes it in a different way and the Sheeps believe it.