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Apple Finally Lets You Download All Your Data

Illustration for article titled Apple Finally Lets You Download All Your Dataem/emem/em
Image: Apple

When the European Union’s GDPR privacy protections went into effect in May, the pressure to give Americans the same tools to view their data was high. On Wednesday, Apple fulfilled its promise to offer a data download service for its users the U.S., and now you can find out what Apple’s got on you with a few simple clicks.


Some companies, like Facebook, already offer the ability to request the data they store on you and many people have been shocked to peruse the sheer volume of information that’s being collected and stored. Apple has been extremely conscious of privacy concerns over the last few years and odds are you’ll find that the most shocking thing about your profile is how it doesn’t really contain much. But still, humans are curious creatures and here’s how you take a peek at what Apple retains about you:

  1. Go to the Apple privacy portal and sign in. You’ll have to enter an authentication code if you’ve enabled 2FA. If you don’t have two-factor authentication, you should.
  2. Once you’re in, you’ll see a few options and you want to click “Obtain a copy of your data.” You can choose which services you want to request the data from but you might as well just grab it all.
  3. It’s possible that you might have to do some extra verification and answer some questions but mostly you’ll just have to wait. It can take up to seven days for the information to be compiled and sent in a zip file to your email address.

Along with the EU and the U.S., the tool should now be available in Australia, Canada, Iceland, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, and Switzerland. Otherwise, you can submit a form request for your data here. Apple uses encryption to anonymize your data for its own product analysis. What you’re requesting is the data that can specifically be tied to your account and device.

While you can choose a maximum file size for the data dump, you probably don’t have to worry about it being very large. I haven’t seen my personal data yet, but ZDNet’s Zach Whittaker asked for his report last May and Apple provided it. It consisted of some spreadsheets that added up to 5MB. That’s super tiny compared to most data-hungry companies. For instance, a reporter at the New York Times found that Google was storing eight gigabytes of information about him. Personally, I find this all horrifying and looking back at my online activity gives me that same feeling of hearing a recording of my voice. I usually avoid these dumps but I requested the Apple one hoping to feel some sense of relief.

The new portal accompanies some routine changes to Apple’s Privacy Policy that gets everything in line with the improvements to iOS 12 and macOS Mojave. It’s a good policy and worth perusing if you want to see how it should be done. Apple’s largely not a data-driven company, so it doesn’t have to fight against transparency the way that many do. Doing the right thing essentially functions as an advertisement for its products. Just always remember Apple is not your friend.

[Apple, Portal via TechCrunch]


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Does it let you easily download a full copy of your iCloud Photos data? I’d like to use this as a way to create a local backup. I have a Macbook but the internal HDD does not have enough space to allow me to check the box to keep a full local copy there.