Should you be concerned about Apple's privacy?

Brandon McCauley
Brandon McCauley
October 2nd, 2021

After decades of rapidly changing technology, one company in particular has continuously evolved and has comfortably seated itself among the other tech giants. They have embedded themselves in many markets, most notably smartphones, tablets, and computers – all of which bearing the all-too-familiar titular fruit.

Within the United States alone, nearly half (46.9%) of all smartphone users are on an iPhone. This would mean that, in the event of either an external cybersecurity threat or an internal privacy change by Apple, tens of millions of people’s personal information would be at risk.

External Privacy Concerns

In the eyes of hackers, Apple is no different to any of their competitors. To them, it’s just another avenue to find and exploit security vulnerabilities. Sure, Apple may have billions of dollars at their disposal, but that does not make them impervious to lapses in cybersecurity. In fact, there was an enormous security threat within iPhones as recently as September 2021 – just last month! While the threat was neutralized through a patch soon after it was publicly announced, the capabilities of the exploit were shocking, to say the least. This exploit would enable a malicious spyware called Pegasus to infect a target’s smartphone without clicking any link. Afterwards, the spyware would proceed to monitor and record calls and text messages, as well as discreetly turn on the device’s camera and microphone.

But this is far from the first time that Apple has had to respond to a security threat. In January of 2019, a different spyware was discovered. This spyware was estimated to have attacked “thousands of users a week” until it was patched two and a half years later. For one of the biggest tech giants on the globe, that is a staggering amount of time.

While lacking the capabilities of Pegasus, this particular spyware used a more typical method of getting their targets to click a link, sending them to a malicious website. Once the iPhone was infected, a lot of the user’s valuable information would be exposed. This included their location, device’s keychain (which contained all their passwords), text message history, address book, as well as their Gmail database.

Despite all that, however, Apple does regularly include security patches within their iOS updates. Downloading those updates is one of the most critical and foundational ways to preventing your information from being compromised. Other great ways that you can keep yourself safe are:

Internal Privacy Concerns

During a presentation related to privacy, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, enthusiastically said “we at Apple believe that privacy is a fundamental human right.”

While that is certainly nice at face value, how effective has Apple been at upholding that belief? Similar to the way that Apple is no different in terms of external cybersecurity threats, Apple’s internal functional operates almost identically to its competitors. Aside from the sales of their devices, Apple makes an ample amount of money shelling out their user’s data, albeit to a lesser degree.

One major way that this happens is through deals with other major tech conglomerates. For example, Google paid Apple $9 and $12 billion in 2018 and 2019 respectively to route Safari searches through Google. The effects of this deal are simple: each search coming through Safari continuously adds to the data that Google collects from Apple users.

More recently, Apple attempted to push a controversial update that was intended for protection purposes. While it would be a useful security tool, it also greatly undermines a user’s privacy.

This update, designed to protect children from predators, included a feature that would scan an Apple users’ photos for child sex abuse material. This led to a public outrage regarding privacy, as people’s personal photos would be actively monitored by Apple. While this update is not entirely off the table, it has at least been delayed due to the overwhelming disapproval.

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