Apple: We Won’t Sell Your Data Or Install Government Backdoors

Apple CEO Tim Cook says it the firm is committed to respecting and maintaining the privacy of its customers and will never use personal information for monetary gain, nor allow government agencies to gain access to a user’s data or device.

The company’s security measures have come under increased scrutiny in recent months following the discovery of a backdoor in iOS and the iCloud hack which saw a number of celebrities’ accounts compromised.

There was no suggestion that the backdoor was intended to aid government surveillance programmes and the iCloud hacks were achieved through social engineering methods rather than a vulnerability, but the issues were not addressed during the unveiling of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus last week.

Apple privacy

However ahead of the new devices’ launch and that of the Apple Pay digital wallet in the US in October, Apple has moved to reassure customers of its security credentials and stress it does not collect user data for monetary gain – like Google or Facebook.

“At Apple, your trust means everything to us,” says Cook. “That’s why we respect your privacy and protect it with strong encryption, plus strict policies that govern how all data is handled.

“Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t “monetize” the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple.”

“One very small part of our business does serve advertisers, and that’s iAd. We built an advertising network because some app developers depend on that business model, and we want to support them as well as a free iTunes Radio service. iAd sticks to the same privacy policy that applies to every other Apple product. It doesn’t get data from Health and HomeKit, Maps, Siri, iMessage, your call history, or any iCloud service like Contacts or Mail, and you can always just opt out altogether.”

Government surveillance

Cook also addressed the issue of government surveillance programmes, stating that such requests are a consequence of doing business in the digital age. Apple says every device or account requests are reviewed by a legal team and if it is required to comply, the user is notified and the narrowest set of data possible is provided to the authorities.

It adds that most device requests come when a device is stolen and most account requests involve  iTunes or iCloud. It adds that national security related requests are dealt with separately and claims it cannot bypass passcodes on iOS devices. It says that it received fewer than 250 requests during the first half of 2014 and has only ever provided details on less than 0.000385 percent of its users because of government demands.

“I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services,” adds Cook. “We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.

“Our commitment to protecting your privacy comes from a deep respect for our customers. We know that your trust doesn’t come easy. That’s why we have and always will work as hard as we can to earn and keep it.”

What do you know about the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch?

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Steve McCaskill

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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