Is Apple Really Concerned About Online Security and Privacy?

“That’s my space!!” or “I need some space for myself”; How often do you use this term in your day-to-day life? I do it often. At least once a week, I would consider going to a place where no one else is intruding my zone.

But lately, I have realized that I’m being followed even there. My last trip was unknown even to my family members. But soon after booking my tickets, I started getting ads and notifications linked to my trip. It was then I discovered the same trend.

Remember the quote, “If you are not paying for it, you probably are the product?” This is completely relatable here. Internet access is almost free these days. You can surf through an entire world sitting in a locked room. While you may count it as a private affair, you are being traced at every single step.

LOVE IT OR HATE IT, YOU CAN’T AVOID IT!!

Wise men say, “Internet is the second most visited place by humans.” And they aren’t wrong. From corporate houses to school students, the internet is one of the most adored and addictive hangout joints for each of us. No matter how open we are, there are few details that we want to keep to only ourselves. It can be the sites you visit, the content you read, people you interact with, etc. But what if I tell you that even while reading this editorial, no matter how secluded you are, someone might be keeping an eye on you.

Let’s take the example of messaging. Do you know that before reaching its destination, your message goes through numerous intermediaries?

Perhaps this is why countries impose specific regulatory laws to protect their citizens from online hacking or cyber breach. According to a report, in 2019, 1506 data breaches were reported, exposing over 164 Million records.

Another report shared by Statista reveals that only 7% of people across the globe are well-aware about internet privacy protocols, and 37% fall in the average awareness category.

As shown in the chart above, in developed and advanced countries like Japan and Canada, the awareness ratio of country-specific internet privacy rules is the lowest. While India, Egypt, and China have the largest chunk of users. The vast difference could probably be due to the stringent rules and restrictions imposed on browsing and internet usage.

Creating a Secured World

Time and again, Apple has taken some significant steps for user security and privacy. Especially with the launch of iOS 14 and macOS Big Sur, they made it loud and clear that they won’t settle for less when it’s about its users’ privacy and security.

𝐅𝐞𝐰 𝐧𝐨𝐭𝐚𝐛𝐥𝐞 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐢𝐧𝐜𝐥𝐮𝐝𝐞;

  • Sharing approximate location with apps that you feel don’t need to know your exact address.
  • Recording Indicators for Mic and Camera, ensuring that no app can use either of them in the background without your permission.
  • Limiting photo library access for the app to only allow them to access the ones you have selected.
  • Apps seeking your permission to track your activities. Once you deny, your browser won’t reach the advertisers.
  • Asking app developers to share private information in the App Store. This includes data linked, data used, and other details they’ll ask you and how they’ll need it.
  • Safari Password Monitoring and Privacy Report will ensure that you are safe online.
  • Enabling WiFi Private Address to prevent network operators from tracking your iPhone.

These were some of the new inclusions. However, since time, Apple has ensured giving its users the most personal space on the Internet. Below are the points highlighting the same.

  • Apple doesn’t keep the history of where you have been.
  • Apple can’t read iMessages you send to other people.
  • Siri knows what you need, not who you are and other personal details related to you.
  • Apple doesn’t track what you read.
  • Apple Pay and Wallet doesn’t keep your transaction information.
  • The health app securely keeps your information and lets you decide whom you want to share it with.

All these steps together made the Apple ecosystem secure for users. And they did it not just with the device we use, also the app we install.

Also, at the 10th Annual European Data Protection and Privacy Conference on 8th December 2020, Craig mentioned some key considerations Apple takes to ensure privacy and security. He mentioned how before launching any product or feature, the task is assigned to dedicated privacy engineers. Some key points mentioned by him include avoiding the collection of unnecessary data, keeping transparency, end-to-end encryption, etc.

However, there’s a question that recently popped out of the blue, raising some severe allegations on Apple’s intentions to deliver a secure experience to its users. And that’s;

Is Apple Concerned About Online Security?

Two reasons raised the question. Firstly, Apple decided to allow users to make chrome its default browser, and secondly, it is charging a sum from Google to keep it as the default search engine in Safari. While it doesn’t look like a big affair, some find it a tech giant’s diplomatic stance. Significantly when it charges an amount to Google against keeping it as a default search engine, won’t Apple be taking an amount to let Chrome and Gmail be set as default browser and mailing options, respectively?

This has undoubtedly raised many brows, but the analysts are pretty much clear on it. If we closely analyze Apple’s moves to date, we would never doubt the intentions. Let’s take a look at some of them;

In October 2018, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook said at a privacy-conference keynote in Brussels, “We at Apple believe that privacy is a fundamental human right, but we also recognize that not everyone sees things as we do.” He further mentioned that online data collection as a form of surveillance is killing people’s right to freedom.

And if this sounds like an old saga and you presume that Apple diverged from its core intentions, let’s talk about a recent Reuters report that surfaced in January 2020. It shared the FBI and President Trump’s allegations on Apple to encrypt its users’ data and not share them with the government. Though it was soon made clear that the Cupertino-based tech giant thoroughly helped the government body, it is clear that when it’s about its users’ security, ‘NO ONE’ can breach Apple’s secured system.

Apple recently introduced a unified “sign-in with Apple ID” feature throughout its devices and installed apps. This will refrain app developers from having any personal information from users, and their identity will only be their Apple ID. There isn’t any doubt that to implement this, the leading smartphone making company had to take a tough call and engage its developers in working a little extra on their codes.

Apple vs FaceBook

Let’s talk about something more recent. The Facebook vs. Apple feud over an upcoming feature compelling applications to seek user permission to track their data. With this feature rolling in January 2021, the scuffle has already started. Facebook is expressing its disagreement, sharing that the tech giant’s step is more about making money through in-app purchases and is hindering the growth of small businesses.

However, Apple didn’t take long to step in and clear the clouds. App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 does not require Facebook to change its approach to tracking users and creating targeted advertising; it simply requires they give users a choice.Apple clarified.

Don’t you think the social media platform founder is over-reacting and his concern is that people may choose to not share their data? Well, to you this may sound ‘nothing’, but for Mark Zuckerberg, it’s a huge loss for his business, which runs only by selling user data and availing targeted branding to businesses. The tech giant is anyway not restricting this completely, it is letting the users decide.

And anyone with the slightest knowledge about the security feature in iOS 14 will agree to Apple’s testimony. It has merely given the bait in the user’s hand.

But then, what is this entire ‘Google’ thing about?

Striking A Balance Between Business And Security

I believe that we should have a clear picture of Apple’s commitment to user privacy by now. However, we still don’t know why it’ll allow users to make Chrome their default browser, knowing that this may expose them to potential risks. Also, recent leaks have claimed that Google pays a sum to Apple, to keep itself as the default search engine in Safari.

Apple knows that people across the globe have a steep inclination towards using Chrome over Safari. I’m sure it had the App Store figures of users accessing Google’s browser on its devices. So to add a little ease, it did give them the liberty to make it their default browser but simultaneously raised the security standards with Safari. Having said this, the users can choose to have the one they prefer. Perhaps this is the way Apple strived a balance between not just security and its business; it also managed to satisfy a large chunk of its users.

Being Concise and Conscious

The brand has proven its commitment towards a healthy environment, healthy society, and friendly interface time and again. While it doesn’t leave a stone unturned to deliver us the best experience, we have perhaps missed that it is a company and has to generate revenue to pursue its business.

The expectations have undoubtedly multifold, and looking at the growing concerns, somewhere it’s our role to be extra cautious.

And talking about business, I’m not talking about marketing strategies alone. According to a report shared by Statista, Apple has increased its investment in Research and Development with over USD 10 Billion in the last five years.

Apple has undoubtedly traveled a long way. Starting from a garage in California to becoming the world’s most valuable brand. And the journey results from loyalty towards user security, a friendly interface, and some excellent strategies. No matter what, there’s one thing that we can take away from all of these, and that’s Apple’s unbiased commitment towards its users.

While on one side it is adding security features to its operating system and home-apps, it is also ensuring that the users get the best experience from their preferred apps.

As far as deciding between Chrome and Safari is concerned, I favor Safari, despite agreeing that Chrome has a friendlier interface. My set of reasons include speed and security. What’s your vote?

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