Here's How Apple Improves the iOS and Mac User Experience While Protecting Your Privacy

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Dec 6, 2017.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    Apple has added a new entry to its Machine Learning Journal with in-depth technical details about how it uses differential privacy to gather anonymous usage insights from devices like iPhones, iPads, and Macs.


    At a high level, differential privacy allows Apple to crowdsource data from a large number of users without compromising the privacy of any individual.

    There are two types of differential privacy: central and local. Apple has chosen to use the local setting, which means that data is randomized before being sent from devices, so that its servers never see or receive raw data from users.

    When users set up their device, Apple explicitly asks users if they wish to provide usage information on an opt-in basis. If a user declines, no data is collected by Apple unless they choose to opt in at a later time.

    The toggle for sending usage information can be found under Settings > Privacy > Analytics on iOS 10 and later and under System Preferences > Security & Privacy > Privacy > Analytics on macOS Sierra and later.

    Apple says the data it collects helps to, for example, improve the QuickType keyboard's predictive words and emoji suggestions, and to help identify problematic websites that use excessive power or too much memory in Safari.

    An opted-in user who types an emoji, for example, may trigger usage information to be collected based on the following process:
    o The data is immediately privatized via local differential privacy.

    o The data is temporarily stored on-device using a technology called Data Protection, which is explained on page 11 of Apple's iOS Security Guide.

    o After a delay, a random sample of the data is collected and sent to Apple's server.The data sent to Apple does not include device identifiers or timestamps of when the events in the usage information occurred. The communication between a device and Apple's server is encrypted using TLS.


    In iOS, information being shared with Apple for the categories of data that are protected using Differential Privacy is visible under Settings > Privacy > Analytics > Analytics Data, in entries that begin with "DifferentialPrivacy."

    In macOS, users can launch the Console app and view the information under the Differential Privacy category of System Reports.

    On a side note, the blog post reveals that "Face With Tears of Joy" is the most popular emoji, used by more than 25 percent of English-speaking users of Apple devices. We saw this chart before, but now it's labeled along the y-axis.


    For a detailed explanation of the mathematical algorithms that Apple is using, the Learning with Privacy at Scale entry in its Machine Learning Journal is a worthwhile read.

    Article Link: Here's How Apple Improves the iOS and Mac User Experience While Protecting Your Privacy
  2. recoil80 macrumors 68000

    Jul 16, 2014
    Their ML blog is always interesting to read, and differential privacy is a good idea.
    I always check the box for sharing info with Apple and with developers, it helps a lot

    I wonder if they'll publish an chart for the most popular animoji character in the future, I bet on the poop
  3. tzm41 macrumors regular


    Jul 11, 2014
    Boston, USA
    Amazing how the laughing with tears emoji became the most popular.
  4. Gorms macrumors 6502


    Aug 30, 2012
    I wish we could get to the root of why Apple felt they needed this article out there.
  5. Dave245 macrumors 603

    Sep 15, 2013
    Probably because there are a small group of ill-informed people who think Apple is spying on them (tin foil hats ready) :rolleyes:

    Apple’s stance on privacy is one of the (many reasons) I like and continue to use Apple products.
  6. ksnell macrumors 6502a


    Aug 26, 2012
    I believe the answer is it helps to attract talent. Top researchers want to be published in their findings, so an atmosphere of secrecy would work against them here.
  7. RickInHouston macrumors 65816

    May 14, 2014
    I think the privacy campaign is all apple has left in the tank. When things go to @**t, apple marketing pulls out the privacy card and plays it hard.
  8. Gorms macrumors 6502


    Aug 30, 2012
    Aww man, I was going for a High Sierra root privileges joke here. Evidence suggests, I have failed this forum.
  9. Bacillus macrumors 68000


    Jun 25, 2009
    Be confident that this information will be more than routinely scrambled and dissected (...) before it reaches Apple servers.
  10. Bryan Bowler macrumors 68040

    Sep 27, 2008
    Thank you MacRumors! You have been publishing some excellent articles lately! That was a good read.
  11. d5aqoëp macrumors 6502a


    Feb 9, 2016
    As soon as I saw this article, I knew that the trollfest is coming.
  12. urkel macrumors 68030

    Nov 3, 2008
    Apples stance on privacy is one of the (many reasons) I am getting sick of Apple products.

    "User Experience" has always been what kept me in my happy little Apple bubble. But the more Apple tries using "Privacy" as their unique marketing angle, the more I see other products improve by "exploiting" user data while Apple stuff hits some hard limitations.

    Of course Privacy is important. But people act as if Google is selling our childrens social security numbers and trading our bank accounts to China. But the reality of it is that its just a two way street. I give up secrets about my browsing habits (OMG, they found out I'm shopping for a new Fridge!) and they give me info and results that I actually can use (Hey. Fridge review. Win Win. (Unless you have your Tin Foil hat inside out)
  13. Feenician macrumors 68040


    Jun 13, 2016
    Did you actually read the article? It's about how Apple is exploiting user data, with their consent, while retaining privacy.
  14. gmanist1000 macrumors 68030


    Sep 22, 2009
    I allow my Mac Analytics to be sent, but every now and then it gets disabled by itself and I have to turn it back on.

    Anyone had similar issues?
  15. Andres Cantu macrumors 68030

    Andres Cantu

    May 31, 2015
    Rio Grande Valley in South Texas
    Sure, when that “experience” isn’t buggy ;)
  16. asdavis10 macrumors 6502


    Feb 3, 2008
    I do wonder how quickly Apple could advance their AI if they had some kind of opt-in feature in iOS and macOS that let users share even more data so that Apple could get more granular data about their users. I think lots of people would give their data to Apple provided an appropriate opt-out method was in place.
  17. AirunJae macrumors regular


    Apr 14, 2008
    Indianapolis, IN
    You are totally right about the use of user data being a two-way street and I totally get both sides of this. I think the whole differential privacy thing is Apple's attempt to "exploit" user data while still respecting privacy. Whether that will be as effective as Google's approach, I would guess not, but I don't really have the expertise to say. There are definitely things I like about both Apple and Google, and I have annoyances with both as well.
  18. tmoney468 macrumors 6502a

    Mar 13, 2007
    They obviously didn't use this in the development of High Sierra
  19. AustinIllini macrumors demi-god


    Oct 20, 2011
    Austin, TX
    I think that, while it is definitely not as powerful as data mining, differential privacy not only protects user information but justifies Apple's position in services. They are not as good at AI as Google, but they are getting better. This acts as a technological and marketing shield.
  20. deanthedev macrumors 65816


    Sep 29, 2017
    Google literally makes almost 90% of their revenue off data. Apple makes practically nothing off our data (they make money on hardware).

    Which company do you think is more likely to abuse your data for their own gain?

    Here’s a hint: it’s the company that was fined for intentionally writing code to exploit Safari to bypass do-not-track in order to serve ads.
  21. AxoNeuron macrumors 65816


    Apr 22, 2012
    The Left Coast
    As someone who works in the field of machine learning, my problem with the optional setting for data collection is that it distorts/skews the sample. Instead of getting a good sample of all users, you're simply getting a sample of the types of users that don't turn off the privacy setting, which may lead you to some bad conclusions and will distort the algorithms.

    It's like in recent elections where traditional pollsters can only call landline telephones due to regulatory constraints. It skews your sample in a large, hard-to-account for way.
  22. Westside guy macrumors 603

    Westside guy

    Oct 15, 2003
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    It would be more interesting to have them talk about differential privacy and Siri's development, since Siri is widely perceived to be lagging the other companies' smart assistants.
  23. 69Mustang macrumors 603


    Jan 7, 2014
    In between a rock and a hard place
    It was such low hanging fruit too. The failed realizations made it actually funnier than it would have been if everyone had gotten the joke. 10-1 somebody's gonna give you 5 paragraphs of righteous indignation remaining completely oblivious.
    Next time, try a fire/explode joke.;) :D
  24. x-evil-x macrumors 68040


    Jul 13, 2008
    Why does my quick type auto correct always screw up and misspell normal words I’ve misspelled in the past then?
    Is there anyway to reset your keyboard auto correct words? Been like that for years
  25. mi7chy macrumors 601


    Oct 24, 2014
    Scaremongering works and also an excuse for having worse software quality, AI, services, etc.

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