Apple's new Machine Learning Journal entry tackles differential privacy

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in General Discussion
Apple on Wednesday published another paper through its Machine Learning Journal, this time covering the topic of differential privacy -- the technology it employs to collect big data from customers while obscuring their identities.




Apple makes use of "local" differential privacy, instead of central, the paper explains. This means that "noise" is generated on a person's device before data is uploaded, rather than afterward, ensuring that fully accurate information never crosses the company's servers.

"When many people submit data, the noise that has been added averages out and meaningful information emerges," according to Apple.

The company also touts the technology technology's opt-in nature, and other safeguards such as the automatically deletion of IP addresses and links between records once information is uploaded.

"At this point, we cannot distinguish, for example, if an emoji record and a Safari web domain record came from the same user," the paper continues. "The records are processed to compute statistics. These aggregate statistics are then shared internally with the relevant teams at Apple."

Some use cases of differential privacy are said to including discovering popular emoji, identifying resource-intensive websites, an improving keyboard autocorrection by learning abbreviations, slang, trending words, and borrowed foreign words.

The technology has sometimes proven controversial, particularly since a study recently claimed that Apple's approach still collects too much specific data. Apple challenged its methodology and conclusions.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 2
    jSnivelyjSnively Posts: 324administrator
    The paper is interesting, well written, and pretty accessible to the lay-person. I suggest everyone who is even remotely interested in the subject take a look.

    This is a really difficult path for Apple to walk (there's a lot to be gained from a ton of personally identifiable information), and I applaud every ounce of effort they put into initiatives like this. The fact that Apple even cares about your privacy (even if they don't always get it right) is a major differentiation from the other large tech companies. No one cares about their users quite like Apple does.
    Martin57
  • Reply 2 of 2
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 2,470member
    jSnively said:
    The paper is interesting, well written, and pretty accessible to the lay-person. I suggest everyone who is even remotely interested in the subject take a look.

    This is a really difficult path for Apple to walk (there's a lot to be gained from a ton of personally identifiable information), and I applaud every ounce of effort they put into initiatives like this. The fact that Apple even cares about your privacy (even if they don't always get it right) is a major differentiation from the other large tech companies. No one cares about their users quite like Apple does.
    It is definitely commendable. It's a delicate balancing act to protect individual privacy while making what is known about the user to be employed to improve the user experience for that same user. Hopefully local AI will help out in this area. I'll see if I can get around to reading the paper.
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