Apple Continues to Stress the Importance of User Privacy

Apple’s drive in heralding user privacy, similar in its stance with current CEO Tim Cook was evident when Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi took to stage at Apple’s WWDC developer conference on Monday.

Introducing more powerful personal assistant features than ever before in its devices, Apple has a new update to Siri, its voice assistant in the form of ‘Proactive.’ Proactive will have certain features similar to the offering inherent in Google Now, to make a direct comparison. The difference however, lies in the way Apple processes searches and more.

“You’re in control.”

That was the simple slide, put up twice during the conference, as if to re-emphasize the point.  While Google Now processes searches and more in the cloud, thereby mining user data and patterns to in-turn sell ad-intelligence information to advertisers, Apple is taking a different route entirely by processing searches on the device, without the need to gather any data that matters in the search.

In other words, user data that triggers a search is entirely anonymous, Apple said, and is not linked or synced to a user’s Apple ID or shared with advertisers or third parties in any way whatsoever.

“We don’t mine your email, your photos or your contacts in the cloud to find things out about you… all of this is done on device… under your control,” said Federighi. “We do it in a way that does not compromise your privacy… we honestly just don’t want to know. All of this is done on the device. We don’t mine your email, your photos or your contacts.”

The stance taken by Apple with user privacy is a marked contrast to that of another tech giant, Google. Google uses user data from Gmail, the Android mobile system platform and a plethora of its other services on offer, for specific, user-targeted advertising that contributes to its revenues in a huge way.

Google’s much heralded recent update of its Photos App was released with much fanfare. A big spotlight however was thrown upon the trade-off with the free Photos app. Users’ photos can be cataloged and searched by Google, along with capturing metadata to further assimilate user data.

Apple’s stance is clear in the matter. For instance, a simple command to the phone’s assistant such as “Show me my photos from last October,” will yield the same results. Here’s how it differentiates:

  • Google Now/Google Photos will pull up the pictures based on cloud-based search algorithms, which will capture metadata from user pictures and more information.
  • Apple’s Siri, with the new ‘Proactive’ update will also pull up the photos. However, it does this without sharing any user data by performing the search on the device itself, thereby safeguarding user privacy.

Apple’s revenues in a vast majority stems from its hardware sales, compared to Google’s ad-based revenue model and the message from Apple is that they can afford to protect user privacy.