Apple's privacy policy a good first step, but don't rest easy, says EFF legal director

Along with a letter from CEO Tim Cook, Apple clarified its privacy policy and users' options when it comes to their data.
Along with a letter from CEO Tim Cook, Apple clarified its privacy policy and users' options when it comes to their data.

Your data's safe and kept private in Apple's hands, or at least that's the message the company's trying to spread through its revamped privacy page.

Along with clarification on the company's exact use for data, CEO Tim Cook published a firmly written letter stating, among other things, that the company has “never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services.”

Before alluding to former government contractor Edward Snowden's leaks, Cook detailed the company's privacy stance.

“A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realize that when an online service is free, you're not the customer,” he wrote. “You're the product. But at Apple, we believe a great customer experience shouldn't come at the expense of your privacy.”

He went on to explain that the company doesn't build a user profile based on email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers.

“We don't ‘monetize' the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud,” he wrote. “And we don't read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better.”

With that in mind, the company explained that health data, for instance, is stored on the device and is encrypted when the device is locked with a passcode or Touch ID. That data, when backed up to iCloud, is also encrypted while in transit and while on Apple's servers.

Siri and Dictation do not associate users' voices with their Apple IDs, either. Rather, it's through a random identifier, the company explained.

These features as well as the many others the company details in its policy might spur people to make the switch to Apple, which likely was a primary goal of the data clarification.

“The company has made a smart business decision to frame itself as particularly invested in privacy and disclosure,” said Corynne McSherry, legal director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in emailed comments to SCMagazine.com. “For me, it's exciting to see any major company competing on that ground — we want a race to the top on user privacy.”

McSherry added that while these privacy touches are welcomed and valued, users shouldn't exactly rest easy, though she did say Apple's efforts to “give users real options” and educate them demonstrates the company's heading in the right direction.

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