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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.

ios-differential-privacy-copy.jpg

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.

emoji-differential-privacy-800x214.jpg

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.

emoji-chart-apple-800x585.jpg

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
 

recoil80

macrumors 68040
Jul 16, 2014
3,117
2,755
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
 

Gorms

macrumors 6502a
Aug 30, 2012
560
1,516
UK
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.

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.

Aww man, I was going for a High Sierra root privileges joke here. Evidence suggests, I have failed this forum.
 

Bacillus

Suspended
Jun 25, 2009
2,681
2,200
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.
Be confident that this information will be more than routinely scrambled and dissected (...) before it reaches Apple servers.
 
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urkel

macrumors 68030
Nov 3, 2008
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Probably because there are a small group of ill-informed people who think Apple is spying on them (tin foil hats ready)

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

Feenician

macrumors 603
Jun 13, 2016
5,313
5,100
"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.

Did you actually read the article? It's about how Apple is exploiting user data, with their consent, while retaining privacy.
 

gmanist1000

macrumors 68030
Sep 22, 2009
2,839
838
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?
 
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asdavis10

macrumors 6502
Feb 3, 2008
460
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Bermuda
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.
 
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AirunJae

macrumors 6502
Apr 14, 2008
488
1,115
Indianapolis, IN
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)

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.
 

AustinIllini

macrumors G5
Oct 20, 2011
12,690
10,524
Austin, TX
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.
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.
 
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deanthedev

Suspended
Sep 29, 2017
1,287
2,406
Vancouver
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)

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.
 

AxoNeuron

macrumors 65816
Apr 22, 2012
1,251
855
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.
 
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69Mustang

macrumors 604
Jan 7, 2014
7,895
15,044
In between a rock and a hard place
Aww man, I was going for a High Sierra root privileges joke here. Evidence suggests, I have failed this forum.
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
 
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x-evil-x

macrumors 603
Jul 13, 2008
5,581
3,236
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
 
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mi7chy

macrumors G4
Oct 24, 2014
10,495
11,155
I wish we could get to the root of why Apple felt they needed this article out there.

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