Apple: Leading the Way to Increased Data Privacy

Apple: Leading the Way to Increased Data Privacy

The State of Affairs

Data privacy and data security are increasingly becoming headline issues. It has been estimated that the average person will have more than 4,900 data interactions a day and that 90% of that data will be exposed to cyber theft or unauthorized access. Disturbingly, less than half of that data will be secure.

Although most data interactions are among machines online, more and more are taking place on the Internet of Things (IoT), which is defined as a network of devices that have sensors, software, or technology to connect and exchange data with other devices.  By the year 2025, experts expect 22 billion devices to be connected.

While most data is stored for a few milliseconds before being removed, there are still 3.7 zettabytes of data stored per year.  A zettabyte is one billion terabytes of data. For a visual idea of what that means, data scientist Riza Berkan states that if a zettabyte was in a printed book, these books would stack to the sun and back five times! Notably, Google stores about 25% of data out there while Facebook stores about one percent.

It has further been estimated that data generated by people brings in close to a quarter of a trillion dollars a year but the average individual, the source of the data, does not receive a dime. Instead, those billions of dollars are dispersed among corporations and data brokers. This is a huge reason that corporations and data brokers want to maintain the status quo.

The Need for Increased Privacy and Regulation According to Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO

However, there is at least one corporate CEO, Tim Cook of Apple, who is advocating for more data privacy. Here are some of his relevant statements:

He believes that we are in a crisis:

• At a moment of rampant disinformation and conspiracy theories juiced by algorithms, we can no longer turn a blind eye to a theory of technology that says all engagement is good engagement — the longer the better — and all with the goal of collecting as much data as possible.

• Technology does not need vast troves of personal data, stitched together across dozens of websites and apps, in order to succeed. Advertising existed and thrived for decades without it. And we're here today because the path of least resistance is rarely the path of wisdom.

And the stakes are high:

• If you think about a surveillance world, a world where you know somebody is always watching everything you are doing, and in the case of a phone or a computer, it is also what you are thinking because you are typing in searches . . . in that kind of world you begin to do less; you begin to think less; your freedom of expression begins to narrow, and the walls move in on you.

• . . . if we accept as normal and unavoidable that everything in our lives can be aggregated and sold, then we lose so much more than data. We lose the freedom to be human.

The solution requires regulation:

• I saw companies continually going outside of . . . what I thought were reasonable rails.”

• Too many are still asking the question, “how much can we get away with?," when they need to be asking, “what are the consequences?"

• If a business is built on misleading users, on data exploitation, on choices that are not choices at all, then it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform.

• Years ago I thought companies would regulate themselves and sort of get better. I no longer believe that and I’m not generally somebody that is keen on regulation. But I think that regulation is required.

• It is certainly time, not only for a comprehensive privacy law here in the United States, but also for worldwide laws and new international agreements that enshrine the principles of data minimization, user knowledge, user access and data security across the globe.

Apple Puts Its Money Where Its Mouth Is

In addition to these statements on the import of privacy, Apple has stated that it believes that privacy is “a fundamental human right.” Based on this belief, it has created a number of features to increase user privacy.

--App Tracking Transparency: With this feature, apps can no longer track users without first obtaining their permission.

--App Privacy Section: This feature on the App Store requires each app to present an easy to view summary of its privacy practices so that users can understand it before installing the app.

--App Privacy Report: This will be part of the new iPhone software iOS15 and will let people know what information the app is collecting. For example, it will alert people when their photo album, contacts or microphone has been accessed.

--Increased Security in its Mail App: The mail app will provide increased protection for the user from those who send him/her emails (it is not entirely clear what this means exactly) and will also block marketers from determining whether the user opened an email

--Increased Privacy on Internet Use: Apple will provide a new service to those who pay extra for its iCloud data storage that will hide the user’s internet traffic from the internet provider much like a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

If not surprising, it is certainly heartening that at least one corporation that stands to profit handsomely from exploiting user data is leading the way in creating methods to increase data privacy.

Alone, we are no match for Big Tech and Data Brokers, but together we're a force to be reckoned with.

Join the Data Dividend Project and take the first step towards getting control of your data. Get Privacy. Get Paid. Click here to Join DDP today.