With the Consumer Electronics Show just days away, a very curious billboard has surfaced in Las Vegas that prominently touts Apple’s privacy standards. Playing to city’s own infamous tagline, it reads: “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.”
The billboard was spotted by Engadget’s Chris Velazco, who tweeted an image of it Friday. With Apple rivals set to showcase their flashy gadgets and emerging technology this week in Sin City (Apple does not participate), it sure appears that the company is throwing daggers in the general direction of its competitors.
“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,” Apple states on its website. “We’ve proved time and again that great experiences don’t have to come at the expense of your privacy and security.”
Android and Google, Samsung, and Amazon have all had their fair share of big privacy and/or data collection scandals, to be sure. And it’s true that Apple does take measures to ensure that user data is protected, including by anonymizing information. Apple’s T2 security chip is an incredible piece of security hardware. But Apple is not without blame for its part in instances of jeopardized user privacy.
As just one example, researchers found in 2017 that Apple had granted Uber special permissions for a screen-recording capability, which raised concerns that the company or a potential hacker could steal passwords and other personal information. That was pretty fucked! Security Researcher Will Strafach said at the time that Uber appeared to be the only third-party developer with such permissions, adding: “Considering Uber’s past privacy issues I am very curious how they convinced Apple to allow this.”
Another Apple privacy highlight includes the revelation by Strafach months before that Accuweather’s iOS app was tracking users’ locations and sharing that information with its service partner Reveal Mobile, even when users turned off location access.
Over on Twitter, TechCrunch’s security editor Zack Whittaker also pointed to a 2017 report from the Intercept that found so-called anonymous messaging app Sarahah was surreptitiously collecting contact email addresses and phone numbers without making clear to users that it was doing so. Whittaker tweeted: “Apple was meant to keep that data safe, too. It didn’t.”
Moreover, Apple has no hard cut-off for webcams on any of its devices, meaning many of us sport stickers on our bezels.
Companies are not your friend, even if they want you to believe they are. And it seems unwise to suggest that any company is perfect in the business of privacy.