You can soon see (and delete) everything Apple knows about you

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Apple takes privacy seriously
A pop-up in iOS 11.3 gives Apple's commitment to privacy.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Apple will soon let you download all the information it has stored about you, modify it, or even delete it. The privacy change is required by a new European law, but is also in-line with Apple’s policy to not spy on its customers. This sets it apart from rivals like Google and Facebook.

Apple gathers some information about its customers, but it doesn’t create in-depth personal profiles. And the page for managing Apple IDs will soon allow you to see everything the company knows about you, make changes, or delete it, according to Bloomberg.

This will include more than just contact information. You’ll be able to erase what Apple thinks are your favorite songs, for example.

Apple committed to privacy

A pop-up window in the just-released iOS 11.3 sums it the company’s attitude: “Apple believes privacy is a fundamental human right, so every Apple product is designed to minimize the collection and use of your data, use on-device processing whenever possible, and provide transparency and control over your information.”

Violating customer privacy just isn’t Apple’s business model. “We could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer — if our customer was our product. We’ve elected not to do that,” CEO Tim Cook said in an interview with Recode and MSNBC.

The opposing strategy

In contrast, Google and Facebook are in the business of collecting as much data about us as possible, and then selling these profiles to advertisers. We’re the product and ad buyers are the customers. 

There’s growing opposition to this tactic, especially in the wake of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal. As just one example, Facebook delayed the release of its HomePod rival because people expected it would spy on them.  

Not just benevolence

The cynical might point out that Apple became a bit more devoted to privacy when the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) act passed. This requires companies to get consent from users to collect their data, gives consumers the right to be forgotten, and there’s a requirement that data breeches be reported within three days. Basically, Apple promises to do what it’s legally required to do.

Although the GDPR covers just E.U. citizens, there will surely be complaints if residents of that continent get privacy protections that Americans do not.