Apple slaps down Google and police, as it takes high ground on user privacy
Apple CEO Tim Cook has taken a public swipe at Google, pledging that Apple will never scan customers’ email for marketing purposes.
Alongside an open letter published on Apple’s website, reaffirming “Apple’s commitment to your privacy”, the company has also tweaked the encryption technology used on its mobile devices, making it impossible for Apple to fulfil police requests to access data on customers’ iPhones and iPads.
we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you
“Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products,” writes Cook. “We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web-browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t ‘monetise’ the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you.”
Although he doesn’t mention Google by name, the reference to reading email is undoubtedly slinging some mud in the direction of the search company, which scans customers’ Gmail inboxes to refine behavioural advertising.
Cook does backpedal slightly when he talks of Apple’s own advertising network, iAd, which he claims the company introduced only “because some app developers depend on that business model, and we want to support them as well as a free iTunes Radio service”.
“It doesn’t get data from Health and HomeKit, Maps, Siri, iMessage, your call history, or any iCloud service such as Contacts or Mail, and you can always just opt out altogether,” he adds.
Cook is also at pains to distance Apple from the Snowden revelations of widespread snooping. “I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services,” he writes. “We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.”
In what amounts to a direct challenge to law-enforcement agencies, Apple has refined the device encryption technology in iOS 8 to ensure that the company itself cannot access user data, even if required to do so by police or intelligence agencies.
“Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data. So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”
That doesn’t mean Apple won’t hand over any information about its customers. The company is still legally obliged to divulge customer data stored on its servers, such as iCloud data backups or other metadata, when forced to do so by court order.
“If we are legally compelled to divulge any information and it is not counterproductive to the facts of the case, we provide notice to the customer when allowed and deliver the narrowest set of information possible in response,” Apple asserts.
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