Apple Collecting Browsing Data in Safari Using Differential Privacy in macOS High Sierra

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With the release of macOS High Sierra, Apple is now collecting data from the Safari browser using differential privacy technology, reports TechCrunch. Apple is aiming to gain information about browsing habits to help identify problematic websites that use excessive power or too much memory.
This form of data collection is the first of its kind for Safari, aimed at identifying sites that use excessive power and crash the browser by monopolizing too much memory. Apple is also documenting the popularity of these problematic domains, in order to prioritize which sites it addresses first.
Apple first announced its adoption of differential privacy in 2016 alongside the debut of iOS 10. Differential privacy is a technique that allows Apple to collect user information while keeping user data entirely private. It uses hashing, subsampling, and noise injection to enable crowd-sourced learning without compromising user privacy.

Differential privacy is already in use on Mac and iOS devices for emoji use, search predictions, predictive text, and other small features that use machine learning for improvement.


Because of this, Apple does not have a specific message about the new Safari data collection when macOS High Sierra is installed, and it is lumped in with the general Mac analytics data notice that is presented when setting up a new Mac. From Apple's Privacy notice regarding analytics:
If you agree to send Mac Analytics information to Apple, it may include the following:
- Details about app or system crashes, freezes or kernel panics.
- Information about events on your Mac (for example whether a certain function such as waking your Mac was successful or not).
- Usage information (for example, data about how you use Apple and third-party software, hardware, and services).

Analytics data contains your computer's hardware and software specifications, including information about devices connected to your Mac and the versions of the operating system and apps you're using on your Mac. Personal data is either not logged at all in the reports generated by your Mac, is subject to privacy preserving techniques such as differential privacy, or is removed from any reports before they're sent to Apple.
While users are given the option to turn off analytics when setting up a Mac, there's also a Security and Privacy setting that can be accessed to turn it off any time. To get to the feature, click on the Apple at the top of the menu bar, and choose "System Preferences." From there, open up Security and Privacy, select the "Privacy" tab and then choose Analytics to choose whether or not to share data with Apple.

Article Link: Apple Collecting Browsing Data in Safari Using Differential Privacy in macOS High Sierra
 

Populus

macrumors 65816
Aug 24, 2012
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So, if I disable the "send analytics" option while configuring the mac for the first time, all this data will not arrive to Apple, right?
 

chucker23n1

macrumors 601
Dec 7, 2014
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Apple does it. "Oh, its ok." "I'm going to leave it on." "Good for them." Google does the same thing? "Oh. My. God. They are selling my information to the aliens."
It's almost as though the two have completely different business models, one of which hinges on analyzing and profiting off your personal data, and the other of which does not.
 
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Rigby

macrumors 603
Aug 5, 2008
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As long as opting out is possible, I see no problem. Microsoft demonstrates how not to do it (you can't turn analytics off in Windows 10 unless you happen to have the enterprise version, which isn't available to individuals).
 
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samden

macrumors member
Sep 15, 2015
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aimed at identifying sites that use excessive power and crash the browser by monopolizing too much memory.
I feel like Apple shouldn't have to seek out rogue sites to prevent the whole browser from crashing. The other major browsers make each tab it's own process to prevent this very problem...
 

mdelvecchio

macrumors 68040
Sep 3, 2010
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Apple does it. "Oh, its ok." "I'm going to leave it on." "Good for them." Google does the same thing? "Oh. My. God. They are selling my information to the aliens."
yes except this is completely anonymous, not tied to me, and is used for system reliability rather than selling to advertisers. yeah same thing, sure....
 
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SvenSvenson

macrumors regular
Jul 17, 2007
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So, if I disable the "send analytics" option while configuring the mac for the first time, all this data will not arrive to Apple, right?
Well, if you're doing that because you don't trust Apple's statement that the data is truly anonymised, then why trust the little switch that says "Don't send data to Apple"?
 
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Tech198

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Mar 21, 2011
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Different how? As far as I can tell they use customer data for the exact same things.
That's why i don't believe it even if it is hashed..

Apple brings out privacy type stuff masking to try and say 'its not that bad because its done in a certain way'...... That's fine, if you know that you know you are still giving it up anyway.. but the concept of "differential" to isolate the actual data itself gets more to light than privacy itself.. regardless. With the whole 'differential' i think we are more likely to loose focus on the fact we are still giving info up, doesn't matter how its hashed, secured or what..

Thing is, If you know you are giving it up regardless, then you make that choice.. But the fact its 'differential' also means we will be happily give "more" of it up, because we don't know.
 

datiecher

macrumors newbie
Sep 25, 2017
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I feel like Apple shouldn't have to seek out rogue sites to prevent the whole browser from crashing. The other major browsers make each tab it's own process to prevent this very problem...
Safari has had per-tab process isolation since version 7. The article's author is just speculating what Apple could do with this information. FWIW, since WebKit's move to this new architecture, I can't really remember having a website related crash that resulted in me having to restart Safari.
 

datiecher

macrumors newbie
Sep 25, 2017
4
8
That's why i don't believe it even if it is hashed..

Apple brings out privacy type stuff masking to try and say 'its not that bad because its done in a certain way'...... That's fine, if you know that you know you are still giving it up anyway.. but the concept of "differential" to isolate the actual data itself gets more to light than privacy itself.. regardless. With the whole 'differential' i think we are more likely to loose focus on the fact we are still giving info up, doesn't matter how its hashed, secured or what..

Thing is, If you know you are giving it up regardless, then you make that choice.. But the fact its 'differential' also means we will be happily give "more" of it up, because we don't know.
You do understand that the word differential from the term differential privacy is not Apple's marketing speech, but actually the term coined by the researches who created this field back in 2006, right? This is not simply smoke and mirrors on Apple's side, but an understood process to anonymize data and Apple has stated in multiple occasions that there's no way to tie that data back to an existing user.
 

jackson01442

macrumors newbie
Sep 25, 2017
4
8
Different how? As far as I can tell they use customer data for the exact same things.
Well Google is by definition an advertising company. Ever wonder why they give away Google Docs and stuff for free? They tie you into their ecosystem and sell your data. Apple uses your data to better their OS and it is not for personalized results, rather overarching fixes, like preventing Safari from crashing, giving everyone better word predictions, etc. Apple doesn't even run an advertising network anymore, only the App Store ads which are served to everyone equally.
 

69Mustang

macrumors 604
Jan 7, 2014
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In between a rock and a hard place
Well Google is by definition an advertising company. Ever wonder why they give away Google Docs and stuff for free? They tie you into their ecosystem and sell your data. Apple uses your data to better their OS and it is not for personalized results, rather overarching fixes, like preventing Safari from crashing, giving everyone better word predictions, etc. Apple doesn't even run an advertising network anymore, only the App Store ads which are served to everyone equally.
Welcome to the site. Long time members know that neither Apple nor Google sell your data. We also know that Apple and Google use your data to better their OS and services. We even know that Apple and Google use your data for advertising purposes since we know that to get out of targeted advertising from either company you have to opt out.

My question was rhetorical, btw. I was being snarky. Both companies use customer data for the same reasons.
 
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