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Apple’s privacy is more important–and precarious–than ever

Tuesday June 28, 2022. 12:30 PM , from Macworld UK
The Macalope likes to think of himself as an optimist. It would just be a lot easier to be an optimist if things didn’t keep happening. Alas, time is linear and the line appears to be going through the floor of the graph and into another more frightening graph.

Of current concern to this horned observer is privacy. You remember privacy, right? It’s the thing no one ever mentions when evaluating smartphones.

It would be hilarious to go back 10 years and find all the articles where pundits said “No one cares about privacy! They just care about what their devices can do!” It would be hilarious if it weren’t so, you know, cosmically unfunny in retrospect

As Ben Reinhardt quipped:

I wonder if 50 years from now we’re going to look back at how we’ve redesigned our world around computers with the same regret that people look back at how we redesigned cities around cars. 🤔

It has the potential to be far worse, unfortunately.

The Macalope has long bristled when Apple’s on-device machine learning was chastised for not being as good as the machine learning done by companies that scoop up your information as if with a cartoon-variety oversized vacuum cleaner hose. And here the Macalope thought that Ray’s Cartoon-Variety Oversized Vacuum Cleaners had gone out of business.

But on-device learning lets your information stay — stay with the Macalope here — on the device. That’s a good thing for your privacy. Apple has long responded to law enforcement requests to unlock iCloud data. What it has vehemently opposed is unlocking individuals’ devices.

The Supreme Court’s decision last week striking down the precedent of Roe v. Wade has many concerned about technology and its potential for misuse against those seeking an abortion. As John Gruber points out, Apple’s Health data is encrypted on the device and when synced between devices. For the time being, most seem to agree that the more likely avenues of obtaining such information would be health care providers and other human sources.

But subsequent challenges to individual rights could change things.


Even if you think abortion is wrong, do not for a second believe that the people who think it’s okay to use technology to track women to prosecute them for violating state abortion restrictions will stop with that. A Supreme Court that is also willing to restrict Miranda rights is clearly showing that it doesn’t think much of your so-called “individual liberties.” What even are individuals but the grist for the meat grinder of capitalism? What even are liberties but your legally required one 10-minute smoke break every 12-hour shift before you return to the coal mine?

You’re lucky you get that 10 minutes, Billy! When you turn 12, it’s a straight 12-hour shift!

Don’t worry, though! Senate Democrats are on the case and chose last week to file a request to the FTC that it investigate–let the Macalope just pretend to put some glasses on here so he can read this:

…“Apple and Google’s role in transforming online advertising into an intense system of surveillance”.

That was…Apple… and then Google.

You know… if you get the time to investigate a second one.

The Macalope is very much in favor of investigating Apple where it’s warranted, such as its App Store monopoly power. And, hey, once you clean up Facebook, Google, Amazon, et al for their privacy violations, sure, take a look at Apple and see if it couldn’t be doing better in that arena. It probably could! But listing Apple first here is the manifestation of the phrase “No good deed goes unpunished.”

Which these days sounds like a forthcoming ruling from the Supreme Court.

The Macalope said he “likes to think of himself” as an optimist. He didn’t say he necessarily was one.

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