flypig.co.uk

List items

Items from the current list are shown below.

Blog

2 Apr 2018 : Apple believes privacy is a fundamental human right #
The latest update from Apple brought with it a rather grand statement about privacy, stating that "Apple believes privacy is a fundamental human right". So do I, as it happens, so I'm glad Apple are making it known. However, we've heard similar claims from companies like Microsoft in the past (remember Scroogled?), so I'm always sceptical when large multi-national companies that run successful advertising platforms make grand claims about their customers privacy. Maybe it's even made me a bit cynical.

I much prefer to judge companies by their privacy policies than by their slick advertising statements, and to their credit Apple seem to be delivering on their privacy claims by putting their privacy poliies right in front of their users. Unfortunately they've done it in a way that's totally unusable. The fact that all of the privacy statements are in one place is great. The fact that they're in a tiny box that doesn't allow you to export -- or even select and copy out -- all of the text, is a usability clusterfuck. Please Apple, by all means put the policy front and centre of your user interface, but provide us with a nicely formatted text file or Web page to view it all on as well.

  The Apple privacy window

If you're concerned about your privacy like me, you'll want to read through this material in full. But worry not. I've gone to the trouble of selecting each individual piece of text and pasting into a markdown file that, I think, makes things much more readable. View the whole thing on Github, and if you notice any errors or changes, please submit a pull request and I'll try to keep it up-to-date.

In spite of my cynicism, I actually believe Apple, Microsoft, Google and especially Facebook take user privacy incredibly seriously. They know that the whole model is built on trust and that users will be offended if they abuse this trust. Everyone says that 'the user is the product' on platforms like Facebook, as if to suggest they don't really care about you, but all of these companies also know that their value is based on the satisfaction of their users. They have to provide a good service or users will go elsewhere. The value they get from your data is based on their ability to control your data, which means privacy is important to them.

Unfortunately, the motivation these tech companies have for protecting your data is also something that undermines your and my privacy as users of their services. Privacy is widely misunderstood as being about whether data is made public or not, whereas -- at least by one definition -- it's really about having control over who has access to information about you. By this argument a person who chooses to make all of their data public is enjoying privacy, as long as they've done it without coercion, and can change their stance later.

The tech companies have placed themselves as the means by which we maintain this control, but this means we have to trust them fully, and it also means we have to understand them fully. Privacy policies are one of the most important tools for getting this understanding. As users, we should assume that their privacy policies are the only constraint on what they'll really be willing to do with our data. Anything they write elsewhere is subordinate to the policy, and given the mixture of jurisdictions and wildly varying capabilities of oversight bodies around the world, I'd even put more weight on these polices than I would on local laws. In short, the policies are what matters, and they should be interpreted permissively.
 

Comments

blog comments powered by Disqus