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Apple launches privacy website intended to show just how secure iPhones and other products are

The site is both a guide to keeping yourself safe, and a statement from Apple about why it thinks that's so important

Andrew Griffin
Wednesday 27 September 2017 16:54 BST
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple special event at the Steve Jobs Theatre on the Apple Park campus on September 12, 2017 in Cupertino, California
Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple special event at the Steve Jobs Theatre on the Apple Park campus on September 12, 2017 in Cupertino, California (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Apple has launched a special privacy website, intended on showing off just how discreet your iPhone is about what it knows about you.

The page gathers up a range of information – how its software and hardware keep their users' information safe, why they do so and what users can do to ensure that their information is kept secret – under one heading on a special page that can be found on Apple's website.

It includes information about differential privacy, for instance – a special feature that allows Apple only to view data about its users in aggregate, meaning that it can learn about what groups are doing but not individual people. And it discusses other tools like encryption that ensure that messages between phones or their users can't be intercepted by anyone, including Apple itself.

But it also includes warnings to users about what they should be doing. Those includes tips ranging from the simple to the much less obvious: from telling iPhone users to add a complex passcode and set up TouchID, to telling them to make sure that their Apple ID is kept secure by using a strong password and turning on two-factor authentication.

The company has regularly marketed privacy as one of the central selling points of its iPhones and other products, putting it in direct competition with firms like Google that use far more of their customers' data. But it is the first time that Apple has stated its commitment so explicitly or publicly, and the first time that it has grouped those products under one clear heading.

Its focus on security has come under particular scrutiny since the launch of the iPhone X, which uses facial recognition to unlock and so needs to store detailed images of its owners' face. That handset doesn't yet show on the page since it hasn't been released, but it's expected to be added once it is.

The website opens with a message from Apple about privacy, and why it feels it is so important.

"At Apple, we believe privacy is a fundamental human right," it reads. "And so much of your personal information — information you have a right to keep private — lives on your Apple devices.

"Your heart rate after a run. Which news stories you read first. Where you bought your last coffee. What websites you visit. Who you call, email or message.

"Every Apple product is designed from the ground up to protect that information. And to empower you to choose what you share and with whom.

"We’ve proved time and again that great experiences don’t have to come at the expense of your privacy and security. Instead, they can support them."

Though no part of the site identifies competitors like Google, some of the features take specific aim at some of their products. The entry on Maps, for instance, focuses on the fact that people don't need to sign in and that the location data isn't associated with any particular person – unlike Google Maps, which collects and uses highly precise location information about each of its users, and which is then re-used for advertising.

And it has a specific section about ads, too. That makes clear that Apple won't use personal information like Health or email information, and that any apps that do use some data will show what data is being used and can be turned off.

Apple did have a privacy page before, located at the same address, but it was just a letter from CEO Tim Cook setting out why the company thought that privacy was so important.

As well as the new page being far longer and more comprehensive, it also includes new features that were introduced in iOS 11 and macOS High Sierra, both of which were released this month. That includes new features in Safari that stop advertisers tracking you around the internet, and a special SOS mode that can be used to lock down phones and put them into "cop mode".

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