Commitment to user privacy complicates Apple’s push into artificial intelligence

“It’s the simple bargain that made companies like Google and Facebook into giants: in exchange for the convenience of running your life from a smartphone, you hand over gobs of data on your every activity. It zips up into the cloud where algorithms do… well it’s hard to be exactly sure, but everyone’s at it,” Tom Simonite writes for Wired. “Oh, except Apple.”

MacDailyNews Take: Only Apple. As usual.

“You can see the logic here. Apple makes its money selling gadgets, not targeting ads,” Simonite writes. “But Cook’s steadfast aversion to the cloud presents a challenge as Apple tries to build up new features powered by machine learning and AI. To build and run machine learning services you need computing power and data, and the more you have of each the more powerful your software can be. The iPhone is beefy as mobile device goes, and it’s a good bet Apple will add dedicated hardware to support machine learning. But it’s tough for anything it puts in your hand to compete with a server—particularly one using Google’s custom machine learning chip.”

“Local processing works great for many things, but if you want to push the envelope it’s hard for a mobile device to outsmart cloud AI, says Eugenio Culurciello, a professor at Purdue University who works on hardware to accelerate machine learning,” Simonite writes. “The most direct way to build a smart new thing to work on your customers’ data, is to use lots and lots of that same data to train it, says Chris Nicholson, CEO of Skymind, a startup which helps companies use machine learning. ‘The more data you have the more valuable your thing gets,’ he says. ‘Google, Amazon and others are benefiting from that and Apple is not.’ It’s also easier to continuously update neural networks in the cloud, so they’re always improving, than it is to push updates to ones that reside in people’s pockets, says Nicholson. Apple has started using a technology called differential privacy to pull in some anonymized data on how people use their phones, such as your favorite emoji, but it’s unclear how broadly that can be applied.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: We bet that Apple’s AI staff will find innovative ways of competing while preserving user privacy. The more people are educated about unchecked data collection and the more who value their privacy, the better Apple’s sales will be. Today, it’s literally Apple against the world.

People who value privacy and security use Apple products.MacDailyNews, September 12, 2015

SEE ALSO:
Apple’s iOS 11 will deliver even more privacy to users – June 8, 2017
More than 60 percent of Windows sufferers would upgrade to Apple’s Mac for more privacy – August 3, 2016
Apple’s cutting-edge ‘differential privacy’ is opt-in – June 24, 2016
Apple’s cutting-edge ‘differential privacy’ offers unique option for technology users – June 20, 2016
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

9 Comments

  1. NSA: “That shithead Apple. Why can’t it cooperate and be like everyone else, you know, give us that friggin’ back door? It’s costing us a lot of money to get into its stuff when it should be free. Which deficit hawks in Congress do we own to get them to force Apple to comply, for “national security” reasons, of course? Ha ha ha.”

  2. Apple can solve the challenges it faces leveraging big data & machine learning, while protecting privacy. No doubt. And what a strategic advantage that will be as the issue of privacy continues gain traction. For Apple it’s a technical task no more difficult than the many they’ve tackled over their 40 years.

    On the other hand, the Googles and Facebooks will have an impossible time going the other way. Their business models are founded on indiscriminate data capture and unfettered use. They simply cannot function while protecting what many of us (and all governments and corporations) hold dear.

  3. Now please dont line up to shoot me.. I use All Apple products and am an investor …..and an advocate(most of the time) and a critique .

    This AI issue has been one of my main concerns about Apple for a few years now.
    Unfortunately their AI sucks.. even at a very basic level of spell check and contextual word recognition( which is bewildering and shocking ) …… all the way to Siri.
    It just feels not so intelligent. It’s not a smooth and pleasant experience!

    The future is AI… and it truly concerns me that Apple is behind in this area… specially as compared to Google.
    If u doubt what i say use siri vs google assitant. Carelessly type something in Apples eco sys and see what suggestion and alternatives or corrections you get and also take note on how consistently and comprehensively AI is integrated across Apple’s ecosys.. ( for gods sake.. there is even this Ridiculous disconnect between the spell checker and the predictive typing … as if they are completely unaware of each other. )
    Try the same with google….. try and talk to the AIs , same issue.. goodle is so much more capable of understanding what one said and offering relevant results.

    Plus why does google respond immidiatly to me when i activate the assistant and why does siri or dictation take a coulpe seconds to activate on Apple .. truly anoying..

    Poor Ai implenentation and integration is massively dengerouse .. Apple cant Afford to be behind in thus area.

    I have been vocal about this issue on forums and directly with Apple. I Hope everyone concerned does the same thing too. ( as we did for the Pro/power-user issues/neglects)

    Imo.. it could be a very seriouse tiping point if Apple does not trully put massive resources behind their AI innitatives and catch up and hopefuly surpass the competition…

    Is crucial ….

    And the answer is in data… analytics … higly soophisticated algorithms and minimum latency ….and consistent and comprehensive integration across the ecosys .
    Apple is behind in all areas at this moment .

    I hope iOS 11 and the new improved Siri,when released, will close the gap with competition ..
    Anything less than having the best AI is not an option … Period!
    AI should be of highest priority and CONCERN for Apple /Tim .
    IMO

    1. Wrong, companies without Hardware Design/Engineering/and a full size OS are not ahead of Apple in anything and that includes the latest so-called buzz words of nothing profitable AI/VR/AR.

    2. Apple knows about this conundrum of the need to learn people’s behavior but not share it with private and gov. spy agencies, while making its services optimally secure.

      Apple hired a bunch of good people to tackle that problem right now. Once it cracks the nut of best security with best voice assistant based on AI, the competition will gasp, feel left behind, and introduce a knock off.

  4. AI lives on Big Data. In the end how much it can learn about a person depends on the balance of personalizing vs privacy the user is allowed to make. At present it appears Apple is practically unwavering on the side of Privacy with very little user control. In contrast Google, Amazon and other companies have much more flexible policies. Google appears to give users the ability to option out of some types of data collection, but the trust that users place on those options actually working correctly is an individual choice.

    Hopefully for Apple’s sake in the AI department, they can find a good balance of security and Big Data to feed Siri. In the meantime maybe they can improve iOS offline ‘smarts’ for more consistency.

  5. I completely disagree. Unless one is talking about something like targeted advertising (which is spurious at the best of times), personalized info isn’t necessary for most practical applications. This is pure marketing nonsense. Also, software that scans a database is hardly ‘AI’. Is it useful? THAT is what I care about. I really don’t require an Alexa to tell me how many tablespoons are in a cup. Total BS.

    1. PS – it is perhaps better to say *personally identifying* information. That isn’t even neccessary for advertising. I don’t buy any of it (no pun intended).

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