Apple’s cutting-edge ‘differential privacy’ offers unique option for technology users

“Modern technology has presented us with something of a Faustian bargain when it comes to our privacy, but Apple thinks we should have another option,” Troy Wolverton reports for The Mercury News. “The bargain we’ve long been offered is the use of all kinds of personalized services, often for free in exchange for handing over some of the most intimate details of our lives — and running the risk that those details will end up in the wrong hands.”

“Apple thinks it’s found a way around this dilemma. The company is promising that it can offer the kinds of useful information that comes from collecting and analyzing large amounts of data — without compromising individual users’ privacy — by using a set of techniques that goes under the banner of ‘differential privacy,'” Wolverton reports. “If it works the way Apple and its developers say it will, the system could help rebalance the data collection-personal privacy equation.”

“Long studied in academic circles but only deployed in a handful of commercial applications, the system allows people or companies to glean meaningful information from a set of data while at the same time preventing any particular data point from being connected to individual users,” Wolverton reports. “Aaron Roth, who co-wrote a book on differential privacy, got a sneak peak at how Apple was implementing its system and came away impressed. ‘They employ engineers who understand the mathematics, and they’ve got a good algorithm,’ Roth, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Pennsylvania, said.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: If it’s not an iPhone or a Mac, it’s an inferior, insecure, derivative, privacy-trampling piece of crap.

Starting with iOS 10 and macOS Sierra, Apple is using technology called Differential Privacy to help discover the usage patterns of a large number of users without compromising individual privacy. In macOS Sierra, Differential Privacy will help improve autocorrect suggestions and Lookup Hints in Notes. In iOS 10, it will help improve QuickType and emoji suggestions, Spotlight deep link suggestions and Lookup Hints in Notes.

Apple’s use of cutting-edge tech will peek at user habits without violating privacy – June 16, 2016
Apple unveils iOS 10, the mother of all iOS releases – June 13, 2016
Apple previews major update with macOS Sierra – June 13, 2016


  1. A lot of people in the valley think we’re really old-fashioned about this, and maybe we are, but we worry about stuff like this. Privacy means people know what they’re signing up for in plain english and repeatedly, that’s what it means. I am an optimist I believe people are smart and some people want to share more data than other people do, ask them, ask them every time, make them tell you to stop asking them if they get tired of you asking them. Let them know precisely what you’re going to do with their data, that’s what we think.

    “Steve Jobs Bio: The Unauthorized Autobiography”

  2. Privacy, or more precisely personal security, remains a strong selling point for Apple, one that is unlikely to be copied by certain competitors. Trust is the lifeblood of security. You trust Apple to shield you from prying eyes. You trust online merchants to safeguard your account details. You trust ad brokers to sequester your data until they find a worthy buyer…

    Meanwhile Google and Facebook &etc. gleefully scarf up all your usage patterns and bundle them, along with your Identity and your associates, as a virtual YOU; later to be pieced out at auctions to advertisers. But you agreed to it; it’s right there in the fine print of the EULA. It isn’t really like slavery, more like voluntary indentured servitude. The adverts you are served isn’t really torture, more like a guided tour of a strip mall. It’s all a small price to pay for the happy delusion that you are getting something of value for FREE. Like this web site.

    1. Following that line of thought, perhaps Apple’s policy should be to default to no info gathered and make every info gathering feature opt-in.

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