Apple's New Differential Privacy Feature is Opt-In

When Apple introduced iOS 10, macOS Sierra, watchOS 3, and tvOS 10 at the 2016 Worldwide Developers Conference, it also announced plans to implement a new technology called Differential Privacy, which helps the company gather data and usage patterns for a large number of users without compromising individual security.

At the time, Apple said Differential Privacy would be used in iOS 10 to collect data to improve QuickType and emoji suggestions, Spotlight deep link suggestions, and Lookup Hints in Notes, and said it would be used in macOS Sierra to improve autocorrect suggestions and Lookup Hints.

emojireplacer
There's been a lot of confusion about differential privacy and what it means for end users, leading Recode to write a piece that clarifies many of the details of differential privacy.

First and foremost, as with all of Apple's data collection, there is an option to opt out of sharing data with the company. Differential data collection is entirely opt in and users can decide whether or not to send data to Apple.

Apple will start collecting data starting in iOS 10, and has not been doing so already, and it also will not use the cloud-stored photos of iOS users to bolster image recognition capabilities in the Photos app.

As for what data is being collected, Apple says that differential privacy will initially be limited to four specific use cases: New words that users add to their local dictionaries, emojis typed by the user (so that Apple can suggest emoji replacements), deep links used inside apps (provided they are marked for public indexing) and lookup hints within notes.

Apple will also continue to do a lot of its predictive work on the device, something it started with the proactive features in iOS 9. This work doesn't tap the cloud for analysis, nor is the data shared using differential privacy.

Apple's deep concern for user privacy has put its services like Siri behind competing services from other companies, but Differential Privacy gives the company a way to collect useful data without compromising the security of its customer base.

As Apple's VP of software engineering Craig Federighi explained at the WWDC keynote, Differential privacy uses hashing, subsampling, and noise injection to enable crowd-sourced learning without simultaneously gathering data on individual people.

Top Rated Comments

macduke Avatar
69 months ago
I'll be opting IN for this. Apple put forth a tremendous amount of effort to obfuscate this data, and I trust it will remain that way. This is a great method for improving the quality of their services without compromise. This is what makes Apple great and why I'm a customer. Apple is far from perfect, but privacy is what matters most to me. Luckily they're also pretty good at UX and industrial design.
Score: 28 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ipedro Avatar
69 months ago
Apple's focus on privacy is going to become increasingly important as Apple disrupts the health field and becomes itself a health company. Apple's hiring patterns, the importance of the Apple Watch to the company and the time dedicated to health in keynotes and on its websites shows that Tim Cook's Apple is about Health. Establishing itself as trustworthy with regards to privacy is critical to its future.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
fxmx42 Avatar
69 months ago
"...then go see my ?" That certainly needs a Privacy feature.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Zirel Avatar
69 months ago
Differential privacy without compromising individual security.. hmm.. I know I've heard this promise before and then it was later discovered, that people could in fact derive info from all that "anonymous" data...
Apple is not Google or Microsoft.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Analog Kid Avatar
69 months ago
The first thing I do with any new device or software is shut down all "share information with..." options. I run Little Snitch to open up the bare minimum number of talk back channels. I generally do my best to protect my anonymity where ever I can.

I will be opting in to Apple's new system.

It may not be perfect yet, but it's important that they're taking this step and making a concerted effort to do away with the tradeoff between convenience and privacy. If those of us concerned with privacy don't support their effort, then Apple and others will decide the effort isn't worth making and then the only options left will be complete lack of privacy or complete lack of networked intelligence.

Differential privacy is different than "user identifiable information has been removed" because it is statistically secure in the way that encryption is statistically secure. Just like most security measures, there will be occasional breaches, I'm sure, but for the same reason I bought a hybrid early-- to support development of a new technology-- I'll be turning on these services.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mcmeowmers Avatar
69 months ago
They really framed this well. MS should take notes.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

affinity designer contour tool

Serif Updates Affinity Photo, Designer, and Publisher With New Tools and Functions

Thursday February 4, 2021 1:58 am PST by
Serif today announced across-the-board updates for its popular suite of Affinity creative apps, including Affinity Photo, Affinity Designer, and the Apple award-winning Affinity Publisher for Mac, all of which were among the first professional creative suites to be optimized for Apple's new M1 chip. "After another year which saw record numbers of people switching to Affinity, it's exciting to...
studio buds family

Beats Studio Buds Debuting Today With Active Noise Cancellation, Stemless Design, and More for $150

Monday June 14, 2021 8:00 am PDT by
We've seen a lot of teasers about the Beats Studio Buds over the past month since they first showed up in Apple's beta software updates, and today they're finally official. The Beats Studio Buds are available to order today in red, white, and black ahead of a June 24 ship date, and they're priced at $149.99. The Studio Buds are the first Beats-branded earbuds to truly compete with AirPods...
maxresdefault

Craig Federighi and Greg Joswiak Discuss iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, Privacy, Shortcuts on Mac, and More

Saturday June 12, 2021 6:12 am PDT by
As is tradition, Apple executives Craig Federighi and Greg Joswiak joined Daring Fireball's John Gruber in an episode of The Talk Show to discuss several announcements that Apple made over this weeks WWDC, including iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey, and a large focus around privacy. Federighi kicks off the conversation discussing the common architecture, now thanks to Apple silicon, across all of...
youtube apple tv

YouTube Discontinuing 3rd-Generation Apple TV App, AirPlay Still Available

Wednesday February 3, 2021 3:09 pm PST by
YouTube is planning to stop supporting its YouTube app on the third-generation Apple TV models, where YouTube has long been available as a channel option. A 9to5Mac reader received a message about the upcoming app discontinuation, which is set to take place in March.Starting early March, the YouTube app will no longer be available on Apple TV (3rd generation). You can still watch YouTube on...
adobe photoshop sketch ipad

Adobe Removing Photoshop Sketch and Illustrator Draw From App Store in July

Saturday June 26, 2021 4:02 pm PDT by
Adobe this week reminded customers that its Photoshop Sketch and Illustrator Draw apps will no longer be available for download on iOS and Android starting July 19. Adobe plans to stop supporting the apps for existing users on January 10, 2022. In a support document, Adobe said users can easily migrate to its Fresco app, which combines many Photoshop Sketch and Illustrator Draw drawing and...
REC ASA CODE2016 20160601 205816 2745

Elon Musk Reportedly Demanded to Become Apple CEO as Part of Potential Tesla Acquisition [Update: Musk Denies]

Friday July 30, 2021 9:04 am PDT by
Tesla CEO Elon Musk reportedly once demanded that he be made Apple CEO in a brief discussion of a potential acquisition with Apple's current CEO, Tim Cook. The claim comes in a new book titled "Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century," as reviewed by The Los Angeles Times. According to the book, during a 2016 phone call between Musk and Cook that touched on the possibility of ...
homepod feature blue2

Looking to Grab a HomePod Before They're Gone? These Retailers Still Have Stock

Monday March 15, 2021 6:54 am PDT by
Apple last week discontinued the original HomePod, marking just over three years on the market for the full-size smart speaker. If you're looking to purchase the larger HomePod before it's completely gone, there are still some options online today. The biggest retailer with remaining stock on the HomePod is Apple itself, which has the White HomePod for $299.00 on its website. Space Gray is...
september 2021 event ar logo

Apple's September 14 Event Page Features AR Logo on iPhone

Tuesday September 7, 2021 9:23 am PDT by
Apple this morning announced a digital-only event that will be held on Tuesday, September 14, and if you view the event webpage on an iPhone, you can tap on the logo to open up Apple's Safari AR viewer and you'll see the three-dimensional logo move in real-time in the real world. Just open up the event site on an ‌iPhone‌ or iPad and tap right on the logo to open up the AR version. The...
iphone 11 night mode photos

Apple Reveals New Night Mode Photo Feature Exclusive to iPhone 11 Series

Tuesday September 10, 2019 12:23 pm PDT by
Apple today announced the iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and the iPhone 11 Max, all-new models that boast improved cameras, and specifically, a dramatic new Night Mode photo feature. Last year, Google introduced its impressive Night Sight camera mode, a software-based feature that allows users to take detailed pictures in dark environments using Google Pixel smartphones. Apple's new Night...
iPhone 13 Dummy Thumbnail 2

Kuo: iPhone 13 to Feature LEO Satellite Communications to Make Calls and Texts Without Cellular Coverage

Sunday August 29, 2021 7:39 am PDT by
The iPhone 13 will feature low earth orbit (LEO) satellite communication connectivity to allow users to make calls and send messages in areas without 4G or 5G coverage, according to the reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Kuo explained that the iPhone 13 lineup will feature hardware that is able to connect to LEO satellites. If enabled with the relevant...