The biggest political battle of the second half of the 2010s may well be privacy. Apple makes lots of noise about protecting its users’ privacy. If you’re wondering how seriously Apple takes privacy – and about the protections that are in place to protect the privacy of data stored on your iPhone or other Apple device or service, then we’ve put together a list of the 5 reasons why we believe that Apple respects customers’ data privacy more than Google.
iPhones are equipped with a number of powerful privacy measures.The iPhone is not easy to break into, and quite aside from Apple’s corporate position on privacy, the smartphone itself has several protective features that help to safeguard your privacy.Best iPhone privacy measures are Passcodes .We always recommend that readers should set a passcode for their iPhones. This simple measure can be surprisingly effective at stopping people from getting at your data, as the FBI discovered recently.
As simple as an iPhone’s passcode can be – we’d recommend a custom alphanumeric code, not four digits, but even the latter is a deterrent to casual identity theft – it takes a lot of work to crack one.if you get the passcode wrong six times in a row the iPhone is locked for a minute; further incorrect guesses result in longer delays. The latter measure in particular prevents hackers from using brute force to machine-guess hundreds of codes in quick succession. If you want, iOS will erase your data if someone (including you!) gets the passcode wrong 10 times in a row. Go to Settings > Touch ID & Passcode, enter your passcode and then scroll down to Erase Data. But only do this if you are willing to run the risk of accidentally erasing everything if you get drunk.
Here’s a small related item of interest, to anyone who wishes to keep their iPhone as private as possible. It’s been ruled, in the US at least, that police can force a suspect to use Touch ID to unlock a device – following the reasoning that a fingerprint is a piece of physical evidence – whereas a passcode is viewed as knowledge and is protected by the Fifth Amendment… not that there is any logical way for police to extract this information short of waterboarding.In other words, for the extremely privacy-conscious, securing an iPhone with a passcode alone is actually a better choice than using Touch ID.
iMessages that send blue cleverly have detected that you and the recipient are Apple users, and these messages are sent over an Internet connection instead (so 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi). These don’t count against your text message package from your mobile operator and work like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger chats.Apple has engineered a way for your messages to only be readable by you and the recipient. This is known as end-to-end encryption.
To get an idea of the scale of iMessage, it processes peak traffic of more then 200,000 messages per second, across 1 billion deployed devices’. This is according to a recent report by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, spotted by Patently Apple, which praises Apple for improving the security of iMessage in the March 2016 iOS 9.3 and OS X 10.11.4 updates. Apple’s iMessage is an excellently secure messaging service, and the highest praise we can give it is that from a user’s perspective it just works. With the complete absence of the user’s input, Apple runs one of the largest, most secure messaging networks on the planet.
The generally agreed plan for Apple to break into the shooter’s iPhone 5c involves the company’s engineers creating and installing a custom build of iOS – one that doesn’t have the same security measures that prevent brute-forcing of the passcode. The OS on the Secure Enclave, it is surmised, features defensive measures that would delete the keys to the encrypted data if new firmware were installed.
Despite Apple’s stance on user privacy, it would seem that the company takes constant logs of your iPhone calls in iCloud (as reported by Forbes). This new information has come from information by Elcomsoft, a Russian provider for iPhone hacking tools, where the company stated that iCloud stores four months of data (from calls logs to user data) in its system in real-time. Where the only way to disable this privacy concern would be to completely disable iCloud – as there is no way of turning off these automatic logs to the iCloud servers.
“We did not expect to be in this position, at odds with our own government,” said Tim Cook. “But we have a responsibility to help you protect your data and protect your privacy. We owe it to our customers and we owe it to our country. We will not shrink from this responsibility.”
Here’s Tim Cook explaining Apple’s stance, in an interview with ABC News:
Latest developments in Apple/FBI privacy battle Update, 6 May 2016: Up until this point Apple has given the impression that iPhone models equipped with a Secure Enclave – the iPhone 5s and later, in other words, but not the iPhone 5c at the centre of the San Bernardino case – are effectively uncrackable if protected by a passcode, and that even Apple’s own staff cannot bypass iOS’s anti-brute-force protections. But a new revelation puts that theory in doubt.
It’s understood that the phone was running iOS 7 or earlier, and thus did not enjoy the additional encryption measures added with iOS 8. But this is still a blow to Apple’s reputation as a maker of ultra-private smartphones, at least until more detail emerges.
Lots of tech companies talk about privacy, and indeed in this case many other major tech firms, including Microsoft and even Google, have come out in solidarity with Apple’s stance. But there’s a difference between saying and doing.
Apple is powerful enough to stand up to overreaching governmental prying, and it has a business model that depends on loyal customers that love the company and its products so much that they are willing to pay more than the going rate for their smartphone. It also makes sense for the company, from a PR point of view, to act in a way that highlights Google’s philosophy.
Google has a long-term record of privacy-hostile behavior .Google, by contrast, has both the means and the motive to pose a threat to its users’ privacy.
Google’s business model is very different to Apple’s. Apple sells products, and premium-priced products at that; this is a strategy that depends on loyalty and love from your customers, but requires little sucking up to anyone else except possibly the media. (And only the mainstream media; you probably wouldn’t believe how aloof Apple is towards the tech press, who it feels confident will write about its products regardless of how they are treated.) Generally speaking, it is in Apple’s best interests to treat its customers well. From time to time it may choose to make it relatively difficult for users to customise their watches, for example, or to download unauthorised software, but on the whole such tactics are intended to preserve a better user experience.
But Google gives away most of its best products, making money instead from the user data it collects in return. What Google actually sells isn’t a search engine, or a mobile operating system; it’s carefully targeted user eyeballs. As the old adage says, if you’re not paying for a service then you’re not a customer, you’re a product.
Google is essentially an advertising business, and it has far less motivation than Apple to worry about the happiness of its users; in turn, it has far more motivation to erode user privacy.
And Google has a truly vast network of data sources. Granted, if Apple turned into a surveillance power overnight it could potentially gain access to a large quantity of personal data from your iPhone and Mac. (Although even there it faces limits; as we discuss above, the firm claims that, in contrast with Syed Rizwan Farook’s 5c, its most modern iPhones contain security measures that would prevent even Apple’s own engineers from opening them up.) But Google has a search engine, a web analytics service, a social network and a desktop operating system; it has YouTube and Gmail; and its mapping service, web browser and mobile operating system each have far more users than Apple’s equivalents.
Google is tapped into every aspect of our lives. It’s SkyNet. It’s the nearest thing to an all-knowing Big Brother that human society has known.Google has been criticized for too readily providing governments with information about their citizens; prohibiting anonymous or pseudonymous accounts on various of its services; installing cookies with a lifespan of 32 years; refusing to offer a Do Not Track feature far longer than any other major browser maker; harvesting data from private Wi-Fi networks across 30 countries without permission; and on the launch of Google Buzz making Gmail users’ contact lists public by default.
In 2007 Privacy International gave Google (and Google alone) its lowest possible ranking: ‘Hostile to Privacy’. In 2009 Google CEO and part-time Indiana Jones villain Eric Schmidt responded to privacy concerns by saying that “if you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”