Is Apple lying about privacy?

Although a veteran Mac addict (since 1985, about a year after it first appeared, if I remember correctly)… I also like both Windows and Linux, in various ways. I once even bought a consumer version of Windows 7 to install in VMware Fusion on my Mac, and ran both. And I even taught Microsoft Word in corporate seminars (although I much preferred teaching Mac-based computer graphics stuff).

In the early days, as a graphic artist I chose Mac simply because that was the platform that supported most programs I used. But now almost all the graphics apps I care about exist on both Mac and Windows. And Windows machines are generally cheaper.

The number one reason I haven’t touched Windows in years: the frequent reports online about Microsoft’s telemetry (their sending lots of your data to the mother ship, i.e. MS, in the background on an ongoing basis, even for non-MS processes you run). From what I’ve read, for the recent consumer versions of Windows, the telemetry is difficult to turn off and impossible to keep off: MS turns the telemetry back on with every forced system update (and you can’t disable the updates). Disclaimer: I have no personal experience with any of this, it’s just frequent reports online.

What’s my point? My number one reason for staying with Apple (Mac and iPhone), despite the added cost and smaller community, is privacy. That’s why this topic that I started in this thread is so important and concerning to me. I appreciate the attention you’re all devoting to it, but I confess I’m still not clear on what the reality is here.

And I doubt I’m the only customer, or potential customer, for whom privacy and security are major issues.

Sorry for all the long wordiness. It’s one of the side-effects of being a very fast typist, I guess!


It’s not immediately obvious that collection of anonymised data has any impact on privacy. But that discussion in any event begs the question: is Apple in fact doing what it is alleged it is doing?


Let’s check the bona fides of those making the allegations. Then we can justifiably approach Apple. There’s still been zero backup/correlation of these two guys in the garage by anybody who can be acknowledged as expert in the field. That’s the real question being begged, in my opinion.

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That’s rather what I meant. I’m not interested in the bona fides of the accusers, though; all that interests me is whether or not they’re right. And, as you observe, there isn’t a lot of objective support for it.

It’s not just about whether or not Apple can do no wrong. It’s also about how they stand up to the competition. And more importantly, about the reliability of the data that was collected in this circumstance.

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Absolutely – which is why it’s important to figure out what’s actually going on so we can make that comparison effectively.


De-anonymization is very much a thing:

Any collection of data is at risk for being leaked, stolen, breached, or having its release compelled by any government within whose jurisdiction the holder of the data does business.


That EFF article is from over a decade ago—what’s the current status of what data is considered “anonymous”?

Personally, I can’t recall a time in my adult life that I would have considered a full birthdate “anonymous” to any degree. The combination of name and birthdate is the standard in the medical industry for verifying a patient’s identity—neither of those two pieces of information belong in anonymized data. That combination is sufficiently unique that I’ve literally encountered a duplication (two different people with same full name and birthdate) only once in my entire career. (And let me tell you, it was a mess to clean up when the conflation of their accounts was discovered at the pharmacy I was working for at the time. It took a full-time data tech most of a week to sort out what data belonged to which patient, both of whom lived in the same state and had patient histories going back about ten years.)

So how anonymous “anonymized” data is depends entirely on what data is being included and which pieces are connected to each other. Does anyone here know what Apple considers “anonymized” data to contain?


That’s beside the point. I want my medical provider to have my name and DOB. That’s my data and it’s my choice to give it to them so it’s all good. But Apple? Nope. IMHO they need as little as possible from me. So when they ask me if I’m OK with them collecting my personal data, I say no. Yet then I still see them amassing it. Not what I asked them to do, so no, not OK.

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In general what sort of personal data are they collecting? From where are they getting it? How did you figure this out?

Thanks, but my questions are within the context of the original poster’s postulation that Apple is deliberately violating its own guidelines with respect to personal information (i.e., getting and selling it after the user specifically opts out in accordance with Apple’s apps). Some amount of private disclosure is pretty much assumed (name, address, credit card number, etc.) but I’m really curious about Simon’s flat out asserting that Apple is actively engaged in collecting their data–I follow Simon’s postings pretty closely but don’t recall them making this definitive a statement in this area before.

Simon is a very smart, knowledgeable, generous and helpful contributor to this list. But I have yet to see him or anyone else come up with specific examples of Apple violating its own privacy policy. But I do keep reading about how Apple has strengthened its privacy controls:

Thanks for the link to the Macworld article; I just read it. It sounds fairly reassuring, but not totally… and I’m guessing that it’s just a restatement of Apple’s statements, not a summary of impartial 3rd-party research (like by a network engineer). Also… I’d just like to point out that it was published almost a year and a half ago. A lot can change in that time.

No, I don’t think I did that – or I certainly didn’t intend to. From my Apple Dictionary:
postulate: a thing suggested or assumed as true…”

I phrased my original post as a question, for a reason. I meant it as a real question, not a rhetorical question. I included phrases like “…the claim is that…” and “If it’s true.” I might be arguing devil’s advocate a little in this thread, but I’d do that with any controversial issue, as a way to draw out more opinions and information.

Please don’t (implicitly) say that I accused Apple of something. The guys who filed the lawsuit are doing the accusing; I’m just wondering.

It’s not beside the point in the context of the linked EFF article I was responding to. All the examples of “de-anonymization” I’ve ever encountered involved a piece of data that shouldn’t have been considered anonymous in the first place.

There’s a difference between de-anonymizing data (i.e. identifying the specific person in question) and tracking an individual from anonymized data (i.e. knowing which data belongs all to the same individual without necessarily knowing their identity).

And the question of including birthdates in data isn’t irrelevant here. Any particular person has input their birthdate into a wide variety of sites and apps, because so many ask for it and only some allow you to leave it unstated. If you set up a Medical ID record on your iPhone, it asks for your birthdate, meaning that Apple theoretically has access to it.

I used a medical example because the EFF article that was linked opened with data released from “anonymized” medical records. In medicine, a field with some of the strictest privacy regulations in the US, name and birthdate are considered sufficient for verifying identity. Can you say how many and which web sites and apps you’ve given your name and birthdate to? Most people can’t. Many of those who think they can will probably miss some if they try to list them all.

So the question remains, what data is left intact when it is anonymized? That determines whether one should be concerned about the possibility of de-anonymizing.

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Apple instituted its last major privacy overhaul in January 2021, and it is totally rattling the advertising industry:

It’s doing enormous damage to revenues of Facebook, etc.

Interestingly, Amazon is a retail shopping site, though they do have a very successful third party ad sales system. So they aren’t getting hit badly. But the mess Elon Musk created with advertisers is probably compounded by iOS 14.

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I think we’re all aware of Apple’s track record on privacy. The question in the thread is whether Apple is saying one thing and doing another and that seems to me to be unresolved.


Force-Restart will not delete the data on my iPhone 12 Mini w/ 16.1.1. Tried basic Restart and Force Restart three times each. Data is still there.

Interesting. I tested this on an iPhone SE3 running iOS 15.7.1. I also tried it on a retired iPhone 5s running iOS 12.5.6 – which did not work. On the other hand, sync’ing that iPhone 5s with iTunes via USB cleared all the data. Maybe something changed in iOS 16?