Apple's 'differential privacy' policy invoked for opt-in iCloud data analysis in iOS 10.3

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2017
Apple's upcoming iOS 10.3 update will include an opt-in for collecting data from iCloud accounts, which will in turn be used to improve "intelligent features and services such as Siri," according to people testing the current beta.




Analysis of the data is only being done after it's subjected to privacy preservation techniques including differential privacy, said MacStories's Federico Viticci. The latter inserts "noise" into mass data collection, making it possible to look at broad trends without risking the exposure of individual people. While other companies do try to anonymize data, it's theoretically possible to join different points to determine who someone is.

Apple first announced plans to begin opt-in data collection through iOS 10 in June, at the time saying it would be limited to deep links, lookup hints in Notes, and dictionary and emoji additions.

Siri, however, has come under fire as being a weak AI assistant next to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, particularly because Apple's privacy policies can hamper machine learning and hence Siri's ability to personalize content or understand context. Data obtained from iOS 10.3 could help Apple refine Siri, if just in terms of general behavior.

Apple is rumored to be making Siri improvements a focus of 2017 iPhones, presumably delivered through iOS 11. This week Apple became a founding member of the Partnership on AI, with Siri co-creator Tom Gruber named to the board of trustees.

The first beta of iOS 10.3 was released earlier this week. It may take several iterations before the finished code is released.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 37
    irelandireland Posts: 17,798member
    Siri dictation hasn't improved for me in a long time and if anything got worse since I switched to English (Ireland) last year.
    awilliams87
  • Reply 2 of 37
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,557member
    As long as it’s opt-in I’m okay with it. Opt-out on anything is an abomination. My former employer, AT&T, got sued numerous times for trying the opt-out scheme, hoping people wouldn’t be paying attention to what they were agreeing to. 
    SolijbdragonDeelronwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 37
    boredumbboredumb Posts: 1,418member
    I've no use for Siri anyway, so for that reason, among others, opting out will be an easy choice...
    cali
  • Reply 4 of 37
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,356member
    I would wager that differential privacy will be the default for all the upcoming machine-learning systems, no matter who the provider is. It's already been shown to be workable. 
  • Reply 5 of 37
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 3,965member
    One of the reasons I tend to stay away from Google is because of privacy/data collection concerns; If Apple can improve Siri while maintaining privacy it would be great
    caliawilliams87Deelronmejsriclostkiwiwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 37
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,356member
    MplsP said:
    One of the reasons I tend to stay away from Google is because of privacy/data collection concerns; If Apple can improve Siri while maintaining privacy it would be great
    Not that it likely matters. but Google has been using differential privacy in Chrome for some time (not exclusively tho). It's also meant to be used with Google's AI efforts from what I've read.

    Apple does have stronger user-facing privacy protections compared to Google, no question. Still neither one is bad when viewed alongside other data aggregators, and both companies are aggressively protective of any user data they've been entrusted with. 
  • Reply 7 of 37
    I put an aftermarket CarPlay system in my car last year and find I use Siri a lot whilst driving; I don't buy into this narrative that Apple is behind Google/Amazon really. They all seem quite similar to me - Alexa has many third party skills, but Apple has strong international support that Alexa lacks. 

    I'm pleased to see Apple pushing ML privacy. There's a good intro to the topic over on InfoQ that looks at what Apple and Google are doing. 
    https://www.infoq.com/articles/differential-privacy-intro
    caliRayz2016watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 37
    calicali Posts: 3,494member
    I say "f*** it" and collect everyone's data privately to improve services. Android is literally selling personal info and no one gives a sh**.

    An opt-out option is fine and as long as Apple isn't selling data and keeping it safe or anonymizing it, it's fine. 
    razormaidwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 37
    Siri played DEVO's "Turn Around" for me perfectly last night, although I switched to Airplay manually. I should try that next. A recent request for "How many years does Albert Pujols have left on his contract" got me his 2016 statistics. That was an improvement from the results for "Albert Pool Holes" I once received, although I enjoyed that more. Siri is Apple's worst product, but I supposed it's kind of in post-beta.
  • Reply 10 of 37
    gatorguy said:
    MplsP said:
    One of the reasons I tend to stay away from Google is because of privacy/data collection concerns; If Apple can improve Siri while maintaining privacy it would be great
    Not that it likely matters. but Google has been using differential privacy in Chrome for some time (not exclusively tho). It's also meant to be used with Google's AI efforts from what I've read.

    Apple does have stronger user-facing privacy protections compared to Google, no question. Still neither one is bad when viewed alongside other data aggregators, and both companies are aggressively protective of any user data they've been entrusted with. 

    Google uses it in RAPPOR. Which makes sense. If I live in a certain city and start typing a search term in Google, then Google offers suggestions applicable to my city. But this is a fraction of Googles data collection.

    I haven't been able to find anything about Google using differential privacy anywhere else. And I don't think their primary business activity (targeted advertising) would even be compatible with differential privacy. The whole point of targeted advertising is that Google knows who you are so it can match ads specifically to you. Differential privacy is the opposite of this.

    People have been doing studies on differential privacy and targeted advertising, and it appears possible, but not at a level of granularity Google would like. So I doubt we'll see them using it anywhere else.
    Rayz2016[Deleted User]
  • Reply 11 of 37
    gatorguy said:
    MplsP said:
    One of the reasons I tend to stay away from Google is because of privacy/data collection concerns; If Apple can improve Siri while maintaining privacy it would be great
    Not that it likely matters. but Google has been using differential privacy in Chrome for some time (not exclusively tho). It's also meant to be used with Google's AI efforts from what I've read.

    Apple does have stronger user-facing privacy protections compared to Google, no question. Still neither one is bad when viewed alongside other data aggregators, and both companies are aggressively protective of any user data they've been entrusted with. 
    You're being a little disingenuous.  Google is amassing a dossier on everyone that law enforcement can access with subpoena, corrupt goats's, criminal and casual hackers and foreign and domestic intel can obtain and that is frightening in its scale.  Every email, sent and received is scanned and retained, every trip you take, every search you make, every thing you post, every document you upload, etc.,every photograph you take or receive, etc., etc., is given a central identifier to link so Google can track you wherever you go and whatever you do, all in the name of marketing you and your family to companies.  You give them a worldwide license for them and "their partners" to use all that data forever.  Once their ad model falls, they can sell that data to another company and that company will give you a new privacy policy.  What will be the future uses of the dossier they have built on you?  Read your terms of service.  Google knows you won't.

    There's a reason Google changed their company motto from "Do no Evil."  
    tdknoxawilliams87DeelronRayz2016kamiltonlostkiwiwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 37
    gatorguy said:
    I would wager that differential privacy will be the default for all the upcoming machine-learning systems, no matter who the provider is. It's already been shown to be workable. 
    I disagree that differential privacy will be the default for all the upcoming machine learning systems due to providers' desire to collect as much data as possible.

    If I remember correctly last year when Allo was released last September while others were negative about Google's data collection intentions you were an advocate of Allo's encryption right up to the point you were informed Google had chosen to remove end-to-end encryption and keep all data forever. Admittedly you did disagree with the removal.

    On another note, differential privacy was not championed until Apple raised the flag. Google, Microsoft and others studied differential privacy and all decided not to use it. Now that Apple appears to be making progress with keeping data private by using differential privacy others may consider it, but with Amazon, Facebook, Google and others collecting as much data as possible online and offline for profiling, I sincerely doubt they will be strong advocates of the use of differential privacy.
  • Reply 13 of 37
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,356member
    Notsofast said:
    gatorguy said:
    MplsP said:
    One of the reasons I tend to stay away from Google is because of privacy/data collection concerns; If Apple can improve Siri while maintaining privacy it would be great
    Not that it likely matters. but Google has been using differential privacy in Chrome for some time (not exclusively tho). It's also meant to be used with Google's AI efforts from what I've read.

    Apple does have stronger user-facing privacy protections compared to Google, no question. Still neither one is bad when viewed alongside other data aggregators, and both companies are aggressively protective of any user data they've been entrusted with. 
    You're being a little disingenuous.  Google is amassing a dossier on everyone that law enforcement can access with subpoena, corrupt goats's, criminal and casual hackers and foreign and domestic intel can obtain and that is frightening in its scale.  Every email, sent and received is scanned and retained, every trip you take, every search you make, every thing you post, every document you upload, etc.,every photograph you take or receive, etc., etc., is given a central identifier to link so Google can track you wherever you go and whatever you do, all in the name of marketing you and your family to companies.  You give them a worldwide license for them and "their partners" to use all that data forever.  Once their ad model falls, they can sell that data to another company and that company will give you a new privacy policy.  What will be the future uses of the dossier they have built on you?  Read your terms of service.  Google knows you won't.

    There's a reason Google changed their company motto from "Do no Evil."  
    Amassing a dossier? Gosh sounds really scary (and I'm the one being disingenuous?)

    Well they should probably start with actually figuring out how old I am (I'm not in my 40's as they think) and that I really don't like Hip Hop music, and my interests do not include either skiing or mountain climbing. Oh, and I've never been to Michigan. Have no idea why they think I did. But I would like to see where Google is logging everything I post here. Some of the old conversations can be hard to go back to. Where did you find that information? As for the rest even Apple does most of that don't they (compare the two privacy policies), as well as cooperates with legal law enforcement or governments requests to turn over your "Apple dossier" :/ as needed.

    By the way you should look at your Google profile information once in awhile, purge whatever you don't want them to use, or better yet just opt out of the whole thing. Google makes it relatively easy to review, modify, remove or opt out entirely from any data sharing or collection.  (As long as you're so worried about companies having personal information where is the Apple page for me to review what Apple has collected about me and modify or remove as need be? Yes I have an Apple ID)


    edited January 2017
  • Reply 14 of 37
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,356member
    gatorguy said:
    I would wager that differential privacy will be the default for all the upcoming machine-learning systems, no matter who the provider is. It's already been shown to be workable. 
    I disagree that differential privacy will be the default for all the upcoming machine learning systems due to providers' desire to collect as much data as possible.
    On another note, differential privacy was not championed until Apple raised the flag. Google, Microsoft and others studied differential privacy and all decided not to use it. Now that Apple appears to be making progress with keeping data private by using differential privacy others may consider it, but with Amazon, Facebook, Google and others collecting as much data as possible online and offline for profiling, I sincerely doubt they will be strong advocates of the use of differential privacy.
    https://static.googleusercontent.com/media/research.google.com/en//pubs/archive/45428.pdf

    Also as others noted Google has been experimenting with differential privacy for awhile (See RAPPOR), well before Apple began their own limited use of it. But kudos to Apple for bringing the privacy feature to the public's attention. Google doesn't do PR very well, kinda surprising for a company who makes most of its living from promotion of other companies. 
    edited January 2017
  • Reply 15 of 37
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,038member
    gatorguy said:
    Notsofast said:
    What will be the future uses of the dossier they have built on you?  Read your terms of service.  Google knows you won't.
    Amassing a dossier? Gosh sounds really scary (and I'm the one being disingenuous?)
    His anti-Google comments are extreme, but I don't see what's wrong with calling it a dossier. 
  • Reply 16 of 37
    ...the incremental privacy creep of MacOS has me asking why so few seem concerned... W10 seems even worse, turning on access with the latest 1607 'feature update' without notice...  I now install on external key, unconnected from the web & check all privacy settings after, for what than may be worth(less) given what lies below any GUI. I'm keeping a couple of macs that run Snow, just in case.

    Photos in Sierra auto tags all photos - no opt out, or in, and as I recall even had an arguably misleading statement on the photos web page suggesting the possibility, rather than the compulsory data mining...  One can call it various shades of private, but I'm guessing all one needs is an executive order and fair game on...

    AI may be the next big push to harvest what remains of work and IP, and concentrate the wealth to the half percent - will we be dealing with more than fake news or alternative facts very soon?
  • Reply 17 of 37
    Photos in Sierra auto tags all photos - no opt out, or in, and as I recall even had an arguably misleading statement on the photos web page suggesting the possibility, rather than the compulsory data mining...  One can call it various shades of private, but I'm guessing all one needs is an executive order and fair game on...

    All photo analysis happens on the iPhone itself.. there is no sending of data to the servers, so Apple has no idea what your iPhone found on the photos on your iPhone..
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 37
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    Photos in Sierra auto tags all photos - no opt out, or in, and as I recall even had an arguably misleading statement on the photos web page suggesting the possibility, rather than the compulsory data mining...  One can call it various shades of private, but I'm guessing all one needs is an executive order and fair game on...

    All photo analysis happens on the iPhone itself.. there is no sending of data to the servers, so Apple has no idea what your iPhone found on the photos on your iPhone..
    Absolutely true. This is why your phone and your iPad run separate syncs when tagging your photos. None of this tagging info is stored outside the device. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 37
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,957member
    gatorguy said:
    gatorguy said:
    I would wager that differential privacy will be the default for all the upcoming machine-learning systems, no matter who the provider is. It's already been shown to be workable. 
    I disagree that differential privacy will be the default for all the upcoming machine learning systems due to providers' desire to collect as much data as possible.
    On another note, differential privacy was not championed until Apple raised the flag. Google, Microsoft and others studied differential privacy and all decided not to use it. Now that Apple appears to be making progress with keeping data private by using differential privacy others may consider it, but with Amazon, Facebook, Google and others collecting as much data as possible online and offline for profiling, I sincerely doubt they will be strong advocates of the use of differential privacy.
    https://static.googleusercontent.com/media/research.google.com/en//pubs/archive/45428.pdf

    Also as others noted Google has been experimenting with differential privacy for awhile (See RAPPOR), well before Apple began their own limited use of it. But kudos to Apple for bringing the privacy feature to the public's attention. Google doesn't do PR very well, kinda surprising for a company who makes most of its living from promotion of other companies. 
    Experimenting is one thing, using it for the benefit of your customers is another.

    Oh, and illegally using your customers data when they specifically asked you not to, is another thing again. 
  • Reply 20 of 37
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,356member
    Rayz2016 said:
    gatorguy said:
    gatorguy said:
    I would wager that differential privacy will be the default for all the upcoming machine-learning systems, no matter who the provider is. It's already been shown to be workable. 
    I disagree that differential privacy will be the default for all the upcoming machine learning systems due to providers' desire to collect as much data as possible.
    On another note, differential privacy was not championed until Apple raised the flag. Google, Microsoft and others studied differential privacy and all decided not to use it. Now that Apple appears to be making progress with keeping data private by using differential privacy others may consider it, but with Amazon, Facebook, Google and others collecting as much data as possible online and offline for profiling, I sincerely doubt they will be strong advocates of the use of differential privacy.
    https://static.googleusercontent.com/media/research.google.com/en//pubs/archive/45428.pdf

    Also as others noted Google has been experimenting with differential privacy for awhile (See RAPPOR), well before Apple began their own limited use of it. But kudos to Apple for bringing the privacy feature to the public's attention. Google doesn't do PR very well, kinda surprising for a company who makes most of its living from promotion of other companies. 
    Experimenting is one thing, using it for the benefit of your customers is another.

    Oh, and illegally using your customers data when they specifically asked you not to, is another thing again. 
    It's a good thing Google doesn't illegally use it when you tell them not to, huh? I assume you're referring to the Google/Safari dust-up from a couple years ago where Google got fined about $22M?

    I'll do you a favor and make sure you are aware of this: You and many others believe that "Do Not Track" carries some legal weight and turning it on in Safari or any other browser means you can not be legally tracked.  It does not mean that at all and was not the reason for the fine. It came because Google improperly advised Safari users on opt-out options. Do Not Track is probably ignored as often as honored on the web. If you don't want cookies and tags following you around the internet you have to take much more active actions to avoid it. A Safari setting is pretty useless, more a feel-good thing than effective. 
    https://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2014/08/26/do-not-track-the-privacy-standard-thats-melting-away/ ;

    And that brings up another point of contention: Services where you must actively opt-out rather than opt-in and no that's not specific to Google services. Even Apple has required users to actively opt-out for some tracking features, with the default being on. You should always have to opt-in IMHO. Even when the FCC very recently fined Verizon for the way they used super-cookies (and some articles implied they are illegal; they aren't but should be IMHO) they still allowed Verizon to go on using them and leave the default as on, meaning to avoid it customers have to actively opt-out.
    http://www.phonearena.com/news/Verizon-fined-1.35-million-for-illegal-use-of-mobile-traffic-supercookies_id79071

    Way too few people have any idea what they've actually agreed to when using their mobile devices and computers. 
    edited January 2017 SpamSandwich
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