Apple's Safari applies differential privacy to ferret out problematic websites in macOS Hi...

Posted:
in Mac Software edited September 2017
Alongside a new Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature designed to protect user privacy, Apple's latest Safari web browser incorporates differential privacy technology to collect user data in a bid to identify troublesome websites.




Released as part of macOS 10.13 High Sierra on Monday, Safari includes a number of new tools developed to protect consumers from minor annoyances, like autoplay ads, to potentially nefarious technologies like cross-site cookie tracking.

As noted by TechCrunch, Apple is adding its differential privacy technology into the mix, providing valuable insight into user browsing habits without exposing identifying information or sensitive data.

With responsible data collection in place, Apple seeks to identify sites that monopolize system processes and memory allocation, potentially causing Safari to crash. The company is also using data gleaned from users to prioritize which sites it takes action against first, the publication said. Responses might be based on an offending property's popularity, for example.

Apple first announced research and development of differential privacy tech at the Worldwide Developers Conference in June. By applying a variety of techniques like hashing, subsampling and noise injection to large sets of sample data, Apple is able to identify broad trends without compromising individual users.

Initially, Apple restricted differential privacy to iOS 10, where it informed low-level functions like adding new words to dictionaries, emoji suggestions, deep links within apps and lookup hints in Notes.

Some believe the method is a superior solution to traditional anonymization techniques employed by other internet and data services companies, though others disagree. Earlier this month a group of researchers from the University of Southern California, Indiana University and Tsinghua University said Apple's implementation allows specific data to slip through, both on macOS and iOS.

Apple responded, saying it opposes many of study's findings, specifically the degree to which data can be correlated to one person. The company also pointed to built-in protection policies including limits on data storage, IP address rejection and the option to make collection opt-in.

For Safari in macOS High Sierra, differential privacy technology is considered a Device Analytics tool, meaning it does not rate its own opt-in or opt-out procedure. Instead, users who agree to send Mac Analytics to Apple will see the data collection feature enabled automatically.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    I hope Safari can record how many times these stupid software ads pop-up on a new window/ tab and how many times I close it immediately, thereby identifying these spam sites.
    Solibrian greenwilliamlondonedredrepressthiswatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 2 of 17
    I hope Safari can record how many times these stupid software ads pop-up on a new window/ tab and how many times I close it immediately, thereby identifying these spam sites.
    I have uBlock installed on Chrome and it shows a little number on how many external links/ads/popups it has blocked... It's showing just 1 on this site but I've seen it show up to 40+ on some sites.

    from this page:

  • Reply 3 of 17
    irelandireland Posts: 17,623member
    I use my nieces MacBook and find MacKeeper installed. “Why did you install this”? “It’s the only way I could get the ads to go away”. Apple need to go after these Russian fuckers. They have been in court and apparently lost, but no sign of abating. I hear they have an affiliate program that gets others to do their dirty work. We all know this app is run by Russian gangsters and they sue anyone who even thinks of badmouthing them to control how their app is perceived and the courts are too dumb to know what’s going on. Just look at press who write about them—how afraid they are to call them like they are. I wish Apple would hire the best lawyers are bury these bastards on Mount Everest legally and educate the court that this behaviour isn’t acceptable. They should be in jail.
    edited September 2017 repressthis
  • Reply 4 of 17
    irelandireland Posts: 17,623member
    adm1 said:
    I hope Safari can record how many times these stupid software ads pop-up on a new window/ tab and how many times I close it immediately, thereby identifying these spam sites.
    I have uBlock installed on Chrome and it shows a little number on how many external links/ads/popups it has blocked... It's showing just 1 on this site but I've seen it show up to 40+ on some sites.

    from this page:

    I once saw over 150 on YouTube one time. I think if you leave a YouTube page open they can accumulate over time. I’ve uBlock Origin, Ghostery, JS Blocker and another privacy extension installed. It’s bad out there!
    edited September 2017 repressthis
  • Reply 5 of 17
    irelandireland Posts: 17,623member

    I hope Safari can record how many times these stupid software ads pop-up on a new window/ tab and how many times I close it immediately, thereby identifying these spam sites.
    I hope you’re right.
    repressthis
  • Reply 6 of 17
    iqatedoiqatedo Posts: 1,606member
    Does anyone here who doesn't have a FB account, find FB cookies and/or cache on their system? 
    repressthiswatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 17
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,764member
    iqatedo said:
    Does anyone here who doesn't have a FB account, find FB cookies and/or cache on their system? 
    Yes. I had to install a separate Facebook blocker extension in the browser. 
    iqatedorepressthisjony0
  • Reply 8 of 17
    iqatedoiqatedo Posts: 1,606member
    gatorguy said:
    iqatedo said:
    Does anyone here who doesn't have a FB account, find FB cookies and/or cache on their system? 
    Yes. I had to install a separate Facebook blocker extension in the browser. 
    Will Safari now manage this under High Sierra?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 17
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,764member
    iqatedo said:
    gatorguy said:
    iqatedo said:
    Does anyone here who doesn't have a FB account, find FB cookies and/or cache on their system? 
    Yes. I had to install a separate Facebook blocker extension in the browser. 
    Will Safari now manage this under High Sierra?
    Yes it will to a point. Tracking cookies will still be allowed under High Sierra but expire in part after 24hours and altogether after 30 days. Much improved from a user standpoint but still won't completely obviate the need for a separate blocker for some folks.
    repressthis
  • Reply 10 of 17
    I hope Safari can record how many times these stupid software ads pop-up on a new window/ tab and how many times I close it immediately, thereby identifying these spam sites.

    sounds like you spend lots of time on porn sites or Fake News sites since they both seem to use those tactics the most
  • Reply 11 of 17
    I hope safari does what they claim, there are some website which really do chew up systems resources. I was recently looking at Memory allocations and saw a number of website which for some reason crew up memory. I think AI is going to be in trouble since some of the ad on AI website are memory hogs.
    repressthis
  • Reply 12 of 17
    for content and tracker blocking, 1Blocker is excellent. iOS and macOS, simple but also extremely customizable.
    repressthiswatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 17
    FolioFolio Posts: 567member

    Reading a few articles on Google’s deal to be default search engine on Safari, I was surprised to see that it also reportedly includes handing to Google ALL Spotlight and Siri searches. Gulp. In these two cases there is NO switching from default for Apple users. The only choice apparently is NOT to use those services. 

    I sometimes use Spotlight, and expect to use Siri more, though for mostly banal things that I couldn’t care less if Google sucks it all in. 

    Yet what exactly does even one Spotlight search give up to Google? Is it only the search results? Or are they vacuuming my drives and filing it for their own uses for eternity? Does this data deal between the two tech titans trouble anyone here? Should, for instance, the growing number of enterprise users on iPads tread more warily now? 

    For many users, it’s probably no big deal. Yet Apple serves more than its share of elites: the powerful, the intellectual, the creatives. Even if not meant to be abused in this deal, a cavalier attitude about information and data can effect the security of IP, investigations by reporters or attorneys, imminent dealmaking, international security issues, etc. 

    In the EU, users can request files from providers on compiled personal data. (Check out today’s U.K. Guardian piece on one woman’s Tinder data.)  In US, so far, there is no such right, which may offer some slight deterrence.

    What exactly are the specifics? Has the fine print been made public?

    Can Google be limited to seeing only the titles and sizes of files on Apple machines? Does standard encryption prevent Spotlight reading of content of our docs? Should users be more wary of how accurately they title files?

    Has Apple put any constraint on the types of information Google can siphon from Apple’s base of users? Does it conflict with what Tim Cook has been saying publicly?

    Don’t mean to sound alarmist, merely concerned. I’m letting my imagination run wild here, based on scant information. Troubled (but not surprised given many news media outlets fear of Page-Brin influence) by how complacent reportage is so far in the US. Hope AI and others can help bring some clarity to this.

  • Reply 14 of 17
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,764member
    Folio said:

    Reading a few articles on Google’s deal to be default search engine on Safari, I was surprised to see that it also reportedly includes handing to Google ALL Spotlight and Siri searches. Gulp. In these two cases there is NO switching from default for Apple users. The only choice apparently is NOT to use those services. 

    I sometimes use Spotlight, and expect to use Siri more, though for mostly banal things that I couldn’t care less if Google sucks it all in. 

    Yet what exactly does even one Spotlight search give up to Google? Is it only the search results? Or are they vacuuming my drives and filing it for their own uses for eternity? Does this data deal between the two tech titans trouble anyone here? Should, for instance, the growing number of enterprise users on iPads tread more warily now? 

    For many users, it’s probably no big deal. Yet Apple serves more than its share of elites: the powerful, the intellectual, the creatives. Even if not meant to be abused in this deal, a cavalier attitude about information and data can effect the security of IP, investigations by reporters or attorneys, imminent dealmaking, international security issues, etc. 

    In the EU, users can request files from providers on compiled personal data. (Check out today’s U.K. Guardian piece on one woman’s Tinder data.)  In US, so far, there is no such right, which may offer some slight deterrence.

    What exactly are the specifics? Has the fine print been made public?

    Can Google be limited to seeing only the titles and sizes of files on Apple machines? Does standard encryption prevent Spotlight reading of content of our docs? Should users be more wary of how accurately they title files?

    Has Apple put any constraint on the types of information Google can siphon from Apple’s base of users? Does it conflict with what Tim Cook has been saying publicly?

    Don’t mean to sound alarmist, merely concerned. I’m letting my imagination run wild here, based on scant information. Troubled (but not surprised given many news media outlets fear of Page-Brin influence) by how complacent reportage is so far in the US. Hope AI and others can help bring some clarity to this.

    Google does not "look at the files on your machine". They aren't rifling thru your phone either. If you have a Google account you can look at what Google thinks they know about you at any time if you wish. You can correct it if it's wrong, pick and choose what you are willing to share, opt out of specific Google services or dump the whole shebang if that's what you prefer. Just like with Apple you can reset your Advertising ID number so that the whole process of profile building starts again, even do that every single day if you want.

    If you don't have a Google account it's not likely they even know who you are with certainty. They don't have an accurate picture of me and I DO have a Google account. 

    In actuality you're an advertising number in a basket of anonymized others with similar perceived interests that advertisers from Apple to Ford to Proctor and Gamble to Zelos would like to sell their products to.  You're a mish-mash of anyone using your computing device whether it's a friend looking for restaurants close by, your son searching up a song on Youtube, your daughter looking for shoes and you wife finding recipes for dinner tonight.  It's not all that important if they have a name and address or not.  Who you are is far less important than your likelihood of clicking an advertiser's product link. 

    Google doesn't have to know who you are (tho if you have a Google account they might), They only need to know you were searching for "sleeping bags" and they could serve up an ad for one. Potentially that could make you happy to find a good deal, the sleeping bag seller happy to get your business, and Google definitely happy to make some money from the advertiser who is likely to be a repeat customer. 

    IMO You should be more afraid of your credit bureau than Google. 
    Now Facebook is a different matter. 
    edited September 2017
  • Reply 15 of 17
    maestro64 said:
    I hope Safari can record how many times these stupid software ads pop-up on a new window/ tab and how many times I close it immediately, thereby identifying these spam sites.

    sounds like you spend lots of time on porn sites or Fake News sites since they both seem to use those tactics the most

    Fake News - nah. Porn - sure. Not too often though.
  • Reply 16 of 17
    cgWerkscgWerks Posts: 2,246member
    Folio said:
    Can Google be limited to seeing only the titles and sizes of files on Apple machines? Does standard encryption prevent Spotlight reading of content of our docs? Should users be more wary of how accurately they title files?

    Has Apple put any constraint on the types of information Google can siphon from Apple’s base of users? Does it conflict with what Tim Cook has been saying publicly?

    When you search in Spotlight, it not only gives you results from your own files, but also from the web. I'm guessing that's the info they are passing to Google... what you typed into Spotlight so it can return relevant web results.
  • Reply 17 of 17
    adm1 said:
    I hope Safari can record how many times these stupid software ads pop-up on a new window/ tab and how many times I close it immediately, thereby identifying these spam sites.
    I have uBlock installed on Chrome and it shows a little number on how many external links/ads/popups it has blocked... It's showing just 1 on this site but I've seen it show up to 40+ on some sites.

    from this page:


    I never experience any popups and only use the browser's built-in popup blocker. I wonder if different browsing behaviours influence which ads are presented, and therefore which popups might occur?

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