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

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.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
33 months ago

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.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
33 months ago
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."
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
33 months ago

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."

Wow, are you ever missing the point. Google sells to anyone, not just aliens.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
33 months ago
Well done Apple.

We can have technology advances and privacy. Don’t let the spyware that is google and Facebook tell you otherwise.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
33 months ago
I'm usually in favor of opting out of stuff like this - but if it helps them fix those runaway Safari processes that use up all my RAM, I'm all for it.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
33 months ago

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."

Well because what Apple and Google do with your data are two different things. So yes, it is a different scenario.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Apple Acquires Weather App Dark Sky

Tuesday March 31, 2020 10:22 am PDT by Juli Clover
Apple has acquired weather app Dark Sky, Dark Sky's developers announced today. Dark Sky is one of the most popular weather apps on the App Store, known for its accuracy and storm warnings. Our goal has always been to provide the world with the best weather information possible, to help as many people as we can stay dry and safe, and to do so in a way that respects your privacy. There is no ...

Seemingly Unreleased Version of Logic Pro X With Live Loops Appears on Apple's Education Site [Updated]

Sunday March 29, 2020 7:23 am PDT by Hartley Charlton
Update: Apple has replaced the Logic Pro X image with an older version. Original story follows. A seemingly unreleased version of Logic Pro X has appeared on Apple's education site, as spotted by a Reddit user. The image from Apple's education products page shows a 16-inch MacBook Pro running Logic Pro X, but with a familiar interface that looks extremely similar to GarageBand's Live Loops ...

Bloomberg: Apple's 5G iPhone Still on Schedule for Fall Launch, But Future Products Could Be Delayed

Monday March 30, 2020 2:40 am PDT by Tim Hardwick
Apple's 5G iPhone is still on track to launch within the company's typical annual fall release schedule, according to a new Bloomberg report on filed on Monday. Signs are that Apple's Chinese-centric manufacturing -- of which Hon Hai is the linchpin -- is slowly getting back on track. The next iPhones with 5G wireless capabilities remain on schedule to launch in the fall, partly because mass...

Case for Upcoming Low-Cost iPhone Shows Up at Best Buy With Alleged April 5 Stock Date

Monday March 30, 2020 4:25 pm PDT by Juli Clover
Apple has a new low-cost iPhone in the works, which is supposed to be launching sometime in the first half of 2020. Given the ongoing situation in the United States and other countries, it's been unclear if the device is going to launch within the planned timeline, but there are signs that it could be coming soon. We started seeing cases for the new low-cost iPhone back in early February,...

Testing Brydge's New Pro+ Keyboard With Trackpad for iPad Pro

Monday March 30, 2020 2:04 pm PDT by Juli Clover
Well ahead of when Apple introduced trackpad support in iOS 13.4, Brydge announced an iPad Pro keyboard with a built-in multi-touch trackpad. We have one of Brydge's new Pro+ keyboards on hand, and thought we'd check it out to see how it works with Apple's new 2020 iPad Pro models. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. The Brydge Pro+ keyboard is similar in design to...

Apple's Work on New Upcoming Products Progressing Normally as Employees Adjust to Telecommuting

Monday March 30, 2020 11:58 am PDT by Juli Clover
Apple's development of upcoming products is progressing as usual despite the fact that Apple employees around the world are working from home, according to a new report today out from Bloomberg. Apple is still working on new versions of the HomePod, Apple TV, MacBook Pro, budget iPads, Apple Watch, iPhone, and iMac, all of which could be released "as early as later this year" and have been...

Apple Releases ProRes RAW Beta for Windows

Monday March 30, 2020 9:33 am PDT by Juli Clover
Apple today released ProRes RAW for Windows in a beta capacity (via Mark Gurman), with the software designed to allow ProRes RAW and ProRes RAW HQ video files to be watched in compatible applications on Windows machines. According to Apple, the software will let the files be played within several Adobe apps: Adobe After Effects (Beta) Adobe Media Encocder (Beta) Adobe Premiere...

2020 iPad Pro Teardown Provides Closer Look at LiDAR Scanner and Confirms Incremental Update

Saturday March 28, 2020 9:56 am PDT by Hartley Charlton
iFixit today shared a video teardown of the new iPad Pro, which Apple unveiled earlier this month. iFixit found that most of the internals of the 2020 iPad Pro are the same as the 2018 model, confirming that the device is a relatively incremental update. The most notable new feature seen inside the new iPad Pro was the LiDAR scanner, which measures the distance to surrounding objects up...

Apple Configurator 2 Updated With New Features, Including Support for Restoring Firmware on 2019 Mac Pro

Tuesday March 31, 2020 5:34 am PDT by Joe Rossignol
Apple Configurator 2 has been updated to version 2.12 with several improvements, including support for restoring firmware on the 2019 Mac Pro. The release notes:• Added support for restoring firmware on the 2019 Mac Pro • Allow access to websites using TLS 1.0 and 1.1 • VPN: Configure Provider Designated Requirement for Custom SSL connection type • VPN: Configure network options for ...

U.S. Government Using Mobile Ad Location Data to Track Compliance With Curbs on Movement

Monday March 30, 2020 4:48 am PDT by Tim Hardwick
The U.S. government is using smartphone location data from the mobile ad industry to track people's movements amid the coronavirus outbreak, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Local governments and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have received the anonymized data about people in areas of "geographic interest," with the aim being to create a portal of geolocation...