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

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
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:

• The data is immediately privatized via local differential privacy.

• 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.

• 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
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
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.

Top Rated Comments

Dave245 Avatar
81 months ago
I wish we could get to the root of why Apple felt they needed this article out there.
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.
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
RickInHouston Avatar
81 months ago
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.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Gorms Avatar
81 months ago
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.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Gorms Avatar
81 months ago
I wish we could get to the root of why Apple felt they needed this article out there.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
deanthedev Avatar
81 months ago
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.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ksnell Avatar
81 months ago
I wish we could get to the root of why Apple felt they needed this article out there.
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.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iOS 17

iOS 17.4 Will Add These New Features to Your iPhone

Monday February 19, 2024 6:52 am PST by
Apple last month confirmed that iOS 17.4 will be released in March, and the update includes several new features and changes for the iPhone. Key new features in iOS 17.4 include major App Store changes in the EU and Apple Podcasts transcripts. The update also adds new emoji and includes preparations for the launch of next-generation CarPlay later this year. More details about the new...
apple wallet drivers license feature

Apple Said iPhone Driver's Licenses Will Expand to These 8 U.S. States

Monday February 12, 2024 7:51 am PST by
In 2021, Apple introduced a feature that lets residents of participating U.S. states add their driver's license or ID to the Wallet app on the iPhone and Apple Watch, providing a convenient and contactless way to display proof of identity or age. Unfortunately, states have been slow to adopt the feature since it was first announced in September 2021, with IDs in the Wallet app only available ...
samsung galaxy ring

'Apple Ring' Allegedly in Development to Rival Samsung Galaxy Ring

Tuesday February 20, 2024 2:27 am PST by
Apple is speeding up development of a smart ring that can be worn on the finger to track users' health biometrics, claims a new report coming out of Korea. Teaser image of Samsung Galaxy Ring shown at Galaxy Unpacked in January Apple has toyed with the idea of a ring wearable for several years, as indicated by several patents, but with Samsung preparing to bring its own product to market, the ...
New Macs iPads iOS 17 4

New Macs and iPads Coming Soon: What to Expect

Saturday February 17, 2024 3:00 am PST by
Following the launch of Apple's Vision Pro headset, attention has shifted towards what is next on the company's agenda this year. As usual, March should be eventful for Apple, as it is expected to release new MacBook Air, iPad Pro, and iPad Air models during the month. In a recent press release, Apple also confirmed that iOS 17.4 will be released in March. Below, we recap what to expect...
Apple Watch Series 9

5 Major New Features Rumored for This Year's Apple Watch

Sunday February 18, 2024 3:00 am PST by
Thinking about upgrading your Apple Watch or buying one for the first time? If your current smartwatch is doing its job just fine and it's only the idea of a good deal that's piqued your interest, it could be worth holding out until later this year when Apple unveils its next-generation version. Here's why. There are already several rumors from reputable sources that suggest 2024 could be a...
m3 macbook pro 14 16

Apple Now Selling Refurbished M3 Pro and M3 Max MacBook Pro Models

Monday February 19, 2024 5:04 pm PST by
Apple today began offering refurbished versions of the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with M3 Pro and M3 Max chip options, offering the machines at a discount for the first time since their October 2023 release. The release of M3 Pro and M3 Max models on Apple's refurbished store comes almost two weeks after the entry-level 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro first appeared on the store....