back to article Apple pollutes data about you to protect your privacy. But it might not be enough

At its WWDC developer event last week, Apple strongly emphasised the difference between data harvesters such as Google and Facebook, and its own privacy practices. It isn’t a new line, as Apple hasn’t been on reliant on digital advertising as these consumer data processing giants. But with Microsoft joining Google and Facebook …

  1. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    The third way...

    To privacy advocates who continue to use Google Services, or carry a generic uncloaked Android: should we do as you say, or do as you do?

    Is disabling/installing as many Google apps as possible and using Cyanogen Privacy Guard to deny access to contacts and calendar by Play Services good enough (genuine question)?

    1. Chronos Silver badge

      Re: The third way...

      Or just using a custom build without Gapps? I use OwnCloud to sync up my calendar and contacts (calendar is synchronised via OwnCloud with Rainlendar2 on my desktops) and F-Droid for apps, sideloading those that I need outside of the open source scope.

      Another advantage of a custom build, especially if you're able to build from source, is you get the bugfixes at the same time as AOSP/Nexus devices.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The third way...

      You can make you and your Android less trackable but it is a real hassle. Turning off geo-location, not using wifi, monitoring app permissions and never making online purchases can help but as long as you are on a network you are always visible to someone, somewhere.

      At some point, most of us will trade convenience for privacy. This will only change when data privacy legislation has become robust, well thought out and enforced. Privacy by design is the way forward.

      EU Legislation like the GDRP (Adobe was recently fined by the EU for an infraction, BTW) is a step in the right direction. Default opt-out and anonymity or pseudonymity for customers should really become the legal norm. Or, customers should be allowed to freely sell their personal data to advertisers for a negotiated price, regulated by a contract. RIght now it is a free for all, and you are the product with almost no property rights or protection.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The third way...

        "Turning off geo-location, not using wifi, monitoring app permissions and never making online purchases "

        That's pretty much how I use my phone anyways, apart from very occasional purchases (and that is VERY occasional)

        I also get between 4 and 6 days uptime on a charge

    3. tiggity Silver badge

      Re: The third way...

      Lots of ways location can be inferred, from GPS, wifi (Google has big database from its maps cars of wifi APs & their location) and phone cell tower data.

      So, with many apps unless you wnat them to behave offline only, if they are going to consume data (be it via cellular or wifi) then potential for location related data leakage.

      I assume, if my phone is on, my location can be inferred

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The third way...

        And consumers aren't given an informed choice. My phone continually asks me:

        "Do you want to improve accuracy of location services?"

        (Who is going to say "no" to that??)

        Whereas it should say:

        "Do you want to upload to Google details of all the wi-fi hotspots your device has been near?"

        1. 100113.1537

          Re: The third way...

          "(Who is going to say "no" to that??)

          Me, I say no to it all the time.

          What is the point of "location services" to me as a user? I can still get a GPS fix for the times I need it (placing myself on a map, for example) and what else do I want? Does it take longer to get a GPS fix with these services turned off? Maybe, but a few seconds is hardly a big deal. I'm not a tinfoil hat wearer trying to minimize my data footprint, but why should I bother with services that are no use to me?

          I am sure other people want these services and if that is what they want then giving Google their location details is the price they pay for the service. You could say that "uninformed consumers" are not being given a choice, but since it asks each time I think you have to be a bit more nuanced and say "uncaring consumers".

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The third way...

          "(Who is going to say "no" to that??)"

          Me.

      2. Martin an gof Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: The third way...

        I assume, if my phone is on, my location can be inferred

        The question is though, by who. If you have just the cellular radio on and have turned off WiFi, mobile data(*), GPS etc. then realistically the only people who have an idea of where you are are the telco and any government-sponsored spooks who ask them nicely. The accuracy of this kind of location data varies enormously depending on cell size and whether or not the telco makes use of triangulation data. If you are worried about your telco knowing where you are then it's time to ditch the mobile phone altogether.

        Me, I use my phone as a phone. If I need data I will turn it on for the time I need data. Likewise GPS. I have never signed up for Google Play and have disabled all the data-slurping apps I can. This has done me reasonably well for a couple of years with the added benefit of a battery that lasts between 7 and 10 days in normal use. Turn data on and that can halve, halve it again for WiFi, and if GPS is active the battery barely lasts a day.

        But I understand that lots of people actually like constant tweeting and suchlike. Just can't understand why :-)

        M.

        (*)an interesting side-effect of turning mobile data off - on my phone at least - seems to be that it then prefers 2G to 3G networks, which in some circumstances can lead to more stable connections for - you know - proper "phone" stuff like talking to people. Oh, and without data, MMS messages are blocked...

        1. Richard Jones 1

          Re: The third way...

          So my voice and text only phone achieves all of that without the hassle of turning crap on and off, how useful.

          Frankly if I am using the mobile telephone it is for voice calls anyway. If I am using the internet it is at the end of a wire, which so called location services put at various points within a 70 mile circle of where I am. The touch phones I was given are now in the hands of my wife and daughter, neither of whom have the slightest interest in mobile data applications.

          I don't allow Google cookies and flush all cookies several times a day.

          Sadly I still get the crooks in various call centres trying to tell me I have been over charged by companies with whom I have never done business for products I never use, e.g. loans. Perhaps I should turn on some real data harvesting and clean them out? Nah, on second thoughts not worth the effort.

          Why does anyone use antisocial web sites like backside book, then worry about personal data?

      3. inmypjs Silver badge

        Re: The third way...

        "(Google has big database from its maps cars of wifi APs & their location)"

        It isn't from maps cars it is from android devices. The endless nagging you get until you allow the "Improve location accuracy" lie and the only way to disallow it is deleting all play services data.

        Allow "Improve location accuracy" and your device constantly sends information about all the APs it can see and its GPS location if it has one to google. Google will also tell your device where it is from the APs it can see.

        Annoyingly that also allows google to geolocate your IP address and so any device connected to it with similar accuracy. Google web search and maps on my PC knows where I am within a few yards only because I let android devices connect to my WiFi.

  2. Camilla Smythe Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    So what happens....

    When Apple manages to pollute your data in such a way that you end up being identified as a terrorist?

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: So what happens....

      Eh?

      The agencies don't just use one data point to identify would-be terrorists, the chances of injected noise giving you - and no other Apple users - the profile of a terrorist are practically non-existent.

      In any case, this data would have to captured by the agencies in transit, because the whole point of differential Privacy is that you can't be identified from Apples data.

      Differential Privacy has been developed by academics for years. Most technical experts welcome its adoption by Apple, but of course they look forward to seeing the actual implementation before passing any judgement.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: So what happens....

        Because odds are they already know a way to distinguish real data from chaff and can winnow out identifying details from the stuff that's made public. IOW, they probably already have ways to differentiate differential privacy.

      2. Camilla Smythe Silver badge

        Re: So what happens....

        So.... You are into trains and in particular Napier diesel engines. You've even gone and built your own on a static stand much to the chagrin of the Wife who wishes you would do some gardening. Apple decides that you are now into gardening and spend an inordinate amount of time researching fertiliser. Diesel + Fertilizer = AMFO. You are now a terrorist.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: So what happens....

          >IOW, they probably already have ways to differentiate differential privacy.

          Akin to encryption, it depends upon how the differential privacy is implemented in the real world. From what I understand, it is built upon proven mathematical ideas.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: So what happens....

            Thing is, theory tends to have problems when you try to apply them in the real world. Such as the one time pad. It's the strongest form of encryption theoretically, but there's still the matter of passing the PAD along without it being intercepted. Here, the only way to guarantee the metadata is no good is to mangle it so much it's no longer metadata. But then, it's nothing useful anymore. It's a part-and-parcel problem. The very thing that makes it worth selling is ALSO the very thing that can be used to identify you.

        2. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: So what happens....

          Dear Camilla,

          I believe you may have confused Apple's differential privacy with something they implemented in OSX Safari a few years ago.

          It was the the feature in Safari that would make advertisers believe you had visited sites that you hadn't - presumably websites drawn from a pre-compiled whitelist (so no KinkyStuff.com or ISISareCool.org).

          Differential Privacy is different, so take a few minutes to scan https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Differential_privacy

          At this stage, exactly how Apple will implement it is not known, but the concept is that Apple will have data about all their users, but can't reverse engineer that data (because of maths) to identify anything about an individual user.

          Of course it goes without saying that the implementation key.

          Kind regards

          1. Camilla Smythe Silver badge

            Re: So what happens....

            Not necessarily confused but I am prone to making things up. Your example of Safari does seem to exemplify what I may have been blithering on about and the wiki page, way above my head, does hint at something else going on.

            I was previously going to go off the deep end and suggest that rather than attempting to 'pollute' the data Apple should just not collect it in the first place but it would seem that they still can and do want to make cash from it by farming it out for analysis by others. No doubt they do the same internally themselves.

            Being a bit of a luddite I'm not sure I would trust this 'pollution' concept, as you suggest the implementation is key and it seems, headline example was the Netflix one that others have had misplaced confidence in the past.... It would seem in that case and others things fall over where someone takes two data sets, one less anonymous than the other in order to make a match that identifies a 'real' person... So you pollute the data such that...

            So Dave is named in one data-set, not from Apple, and has a number of interests not including thirsty diesel engines but including gardening and other stuff. Dave also appears in Apple's data-set and is also interested in the other stuff but not gardening however Apple slips in an interest in thirsty diesel engines in order to 'pollute' things. However Apple are clever and remove any personal identifying information about Dave. Now we cannot be absolutely certain that unknown Dave is known Dave

            The NSA get hold of the data-sets and notice that Dave with no name looks very similar to Dave with a name. The NSA do a chi squared test and are marginally certain that the Dave they know about who is interested gardening but not diesel is the Unnamed Dave offered up by Apple who is interested in diesel but not gardening.

            They reason, realising the risk, that Unknown Dave from Apple is likely to be stockpiling diesel for AMFO using his Apple Anonymised account whilst being a bit relaxed elsewhere as named Dave about his apparently benign gardening practices in order to obtain fertiliser again for his AMFO so just to be safe they send in the SWAT team.

            Something like that anyway.

        3. Nigel 11

          Re: So what happens....

          Diesel + Fertilizer = AMFO. You are now a terrorist.

          Along with every farmer, plant breeder and quarryman in the country. Fail.

          Quarrymen actually mix the fertilizer and the fuel oil to make ANFO in a hole in the ground, for blasting rock. Cheaper than "proper" high explosives and just as effective. Only example I can think of where something invented for terrorism then found a peaceful use.

          Actually, this observation tells us a lot about the motives of those who collect our data under the pretences of protecting us from terrorists. Terrorists are outliers. It's hard or impossible to identify outliers using big data techniques. What it's good at is finding large subsets of people who fit some profile that makes them appropriate targets for advertizing.

          Or for genocide, when the government goes really bad. Sorry, but it's true.

          BTW there's something wrong with Google's algorithms concerning myself. Even though I now live in rural Northants and don't even try to hide my phone's identity, Google alternates between targeting me with advertizing for businesses in NW London (where I used to live over a year ago) and Solihull (where I've never even driven through). Odd. Slightly reassuring.

        4. energystar
          Big Brother

          Re: So what happens....

          Yep, first thought. You and those 20-50 around you on this diffusing math are now suspect. Next request will be that you and those 20-50 around you to be un-diffused. If the two signals remain mixed, on targeting you, only your full data set could be subject to phoena. Praxis could go like that. Just guessing.

          Obvious is to everyone that this diffusing math can only by applied to a subset of the harvest.

      3. energystar
        Terminator

        Re: So what happens....

        "...but of course they look forward to seeing the actual implementation..."

        Of course! Please pass THIS side of the stage... ;D

    2. DougS Silver badge

      "Identifying you as a terrorist"

      This is data that Apple is collecting from iPhones for its internal use (to improve Siri or Maps, stuff like that) They aren't sharing this data with third parties, so short of the NSA hacking Apple's servers to harvest this data that has been cleansed of personally identifying information, then managing to "de-anonymize" you as per the article reference, it isn't going to be added to the 'file' the government has on you.

      By adding the fuzzing data and being up front about it, they are basically telling the NSA "if you get your hands on this data it is poisoned with false information", making it less useful to them. They'd rather hack Facebook or Google and get access to a much larger volume of data that is directly linked to you personally.

  3. FIA

    To privacy advocates who continue to use Google Services, or carry a generic uncloaked Android: should we do as you say, or do as you do?

    Surely it depends if you do so knowingly?

    I support the right to privacy, and also have a gmail account. But I use that knowing Google can read all my email if it so desires; but as that's an informed choice I don't see the problem. (I see it as the price for the convenience of Gmail).

    The issue for me is when people don't realise or understand the implications of their actions.

    Oh, +1 for Owncloud too, never liked the idea of Dropbox but the convenince of contact/calender/file sync whilst still having full control over your data is marvellous.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      >Google can read all my email if it so desires; but as that's an informed choice I don't see the problem. (I see it as the price for the convenience of Gmail).

      Also, Google have not suffered any massive security breaches, a la Ashley Madison, Sony et al... Google seem to be capable of keeping your data out of the hands of blackmailers and extortionists.

      1. John Lilburne Silver badge

        Unfortunately it also reads all the email sent to you by people that have no relationship with Google. Your decision means that you are co-opting them into Goggle's disregard for privacy.

        1. energystar
          Gimp

          ...by people that have no relationship with...

          So many people inviting us to join them at those 'Joyful Sites' ;D

          Yea, a lot of Joy behind those giant mirrors.

      2. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

        @Dave 126

        "Also, Google have not suffered any massive security breaches"

        Yet

        TFTFY

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @Dave 126

          "Also, Google have not suffered any massive security breaches"

          .. that we know of..

          1. <shakes head>

            Re: @Dave 126

            they have the NSA breached them

    2. inmypjs Silver badge

      "I support the right to privacy, and also have a gmail account. But I use that knowing Google can read all my email if it so desires"

      What do you mean if it so desires? of course it reads your email which also gives it information about the people sending you email - so much for their right to privacy. Especially when people feed email from other accounts through gmail so the sender can't tell it will be read by google.

      Frankly I equate @gmail.com with asshole.

      1. Richard Jones 1
        Happy

        @ inmypjs

        With a well presented point(?) like yours I equate your post with worthless.

        It tells me and possibly others, a great more about you than about anything else. If you do not like a product, company, country or whatever do not use those things. Since the French decided that incinerating live sheep was a good idea I have assumed their products were not worth buying so I avoid them, see no insults needed.

        I use Google, it helps me find what I want better than any other search source. I am sensible and grown up enough to accept that they will expect some (cashless) payment in return. That relates to something called terms of trade, but hosting cookies from them or anyone else is a different matter that I manage somewhat closely.

        1. Camilla Smythe Silver badge

          Re: @ inmypjs

          With a well presented point(?) like yours I equate your post with worthless.

          @Richard Jones 1

          Presumably it went over your head because you are a short person. Will you accept that, should I be so inclined, if I were to send an e-mail to you on your, assuming you do have one, gmail account then the contents would be subject to analysis by Google.... bit of a waste of time me setting up and running my own mail server to avoid Google then. Oh silly me, it's ever so convenient for you though and you do not mind giving up a bit of your privacy for that convenience... but stuff everyone else.

          Recently I started getting spammed by LinkedIn on behalf of an American Lawyer. Turns out he, as a privacy advocate, had managed to spaff all of his contacts to LinkedIn. FFS. I hope that gaff did not include 'important clients'. Otherwise I suppose LinkedIn is really convenient and such stuff and hey... you do not mind giving up a bit of your privacy for the convenience... but stuff everyone else.

          Especially when people feed email from other accounts through gmail so the sender can't tell it will be read by google.

          Case in point my MP runs his own website mymp.com and provides a contact e-mail address mymp@mymp.com so being dumb I think it might be fairly useful to use that one to have a moan at him about something...

          ;; QUESTION SECTION:

          :mymp.com. IN MX

          ;; ANSWER SECTION:

          :mymp.com. 14400 IN MX 10 ASPMX4.GOOGLEMAIL.com.

          :mymp.com. 14400 IN MX 10 ASPMX3.GOOGLEMAIL.com.

          :mymp.com. 14400 IN MX 10 ASPMX5.GOOGLEMAIL.com.

          :mymp.com. 14400 IN MX 5 ALT2.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.com.

          :mymp.com. 14400 IN MX 1 ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.com.

          :mymp.com. 14400 IN MX 5 ALT1.ASPMX.L.GOOGLE.com.

          :mymp.com. 14400 IN MX 10 ASPMX2.GOOGLEMAIL.com.

          Hey... but that's alright. It is just so bloody convenient... and stuff the rest of you.

          Now you mention how pristine you are, for yourself, about Google and presumably other cookies. I do not know for certain because I have my mail locked down to avoid it but does Google try to set cookies via e-mail? If so then you again assuming you use gmail may well be spuking their cookies all over your mates computers but that's OK because whilst you are so informed and it's all so convenient.. stuff everyone else.

          Of course if your mates are not as dead clev as you.. yeah well, as you know it's all so convenient so stuff them.

          1. Richard Jones 1

            @ Camilla Smythe Re: @ inmypjs

            I guess your snide pygmy intellect silliness was to show your infinite inferiority complex but hey ho all to the good I guess.

            No I do not use Google mail though I know others who do I use Google as such for searches, do Google mail do product searches for their customers? Or is that only in the limitless dark corners of your convoluted mind?

            I do have an e-mail account that is often compromised by the utter stupidity of so called organisations who have no understanding of BCC when send mails perhaps you are in that group? Your lawyer contact clearly was.

            I applaud your defence of inmypjs alias asshole, perhaps your's and their joint efforts to degrade debate represent the crude state of society for which you jointly aim.

            So while you grovel about in the chicken dirt of your lives have fun.

            Clearly if you were not so up yourself you might have realised I clear cookies after searches using Google via a PC browser.

            I trust miss whatever you have now learned something, crude and stupid language is pointless and self demeaning I assume you are as well.

            1. Camilla Smythe Silver badge

              Re: @ Camilla Smythe @ inmypjs

              I do apologise to short people by offering you up as an excuse as to why the point may have gone over the head of @RJ1.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @ inmypjs

            Presumably it went over your head because you are a short person. Will you accept that, should I be so inclined, if I were to send an e-mail to you on your, assuming you do have one, gmail account then the contents would be subject to analysis by Google.... bit of a waste of time me setting up and running my own mail server to avoid Google then. Oh silly me, it's ever so convenient for you though and you do not mind giving up a bit of your privacy for that convenience... but stuff everyone else.

            Ah, but here is the fun bit that the Information Commissioner's Office is vewwy, vewwy quiet about: at present, a European business using Gmail is technically breaking the Data Protection Act, which, by the way, includes parts of the UK government.

            Why the word "technically"? Well, because it IS illegal as the sender has not given permission to export their data (and email) to a nation with less (well, no) equivalent privacy protection as the EU, a situation that was only legalised by the dirty sticking plaster called "Safe Harbor", which is no more. Ergo, until such time as the EU article 29 Working Group approves a version of Privacy Shield (which it really can't, but this is usually where politics override law), any EU business or government using Gmail breaks the law. Technically. Until someone fixes it and everyone can just go back to legally selling out their customers or citizens without their knowledge, and without their permission.

            Now for some fun data:

            thing:~$ dig +short mx cabinetoffice.gov.uk

            30 aspmx4.googlemail.com.

            30 aspmx3.googlemail.com.

            10 aspmx.l.google.com.

            20 alt2.aspmx.l.google.com.

            20 alt1.aspmx.l.google.com.

            30 aspmx5.googlemail.com.

            30 aspmx2.googlemail.com.

            It's not the only government department, but as it advises No 10 I'd deem that one significant.

            Here's a hint: the ICO won't act if nobody complains because doing so opens a massive can of political worms (imagine just how many UK businesses have fallen for Gmail without realising the implications, let alone across the whole of Europe). So enjoy complaining.

            Oh, and, umm ..

            thing:~$ dig +short mx theregister.co.uk

            10 aspmx5.googlemail.com.

            10 aspmx3.googlemail.com.

            10 aspmx2.googlemail.com.

            5 alt2.aspmx.l.google.com.

            5 alt1.aspmx.l.google.com.

            1 aspmx.l.google.com.

            10 aspmx4.googlemail.com.

            Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.

            By the way, if you really want to be evil, there's also a problem with Office365, even when you use the EU version - it STILL uses US based resources for email. If you like throwing bricks through windows, the door is wide open (pardon the mix of metaphors). EU privacy law is loads of fun if you know what you're talking about and have an evil sense of humour. I do, and I have :).

            1. Camilla Smythe Silver badge

              Re: @ inmypjs

              @AC Oh Dear...

            2. energystar
              Paris Hilton

              Re: @ inmypjs

              You're having a TRUE party around there, don't you?

        2. Nigel 11

          Re: @ inmypjs

          Since the French decided that incinerating live sheep was a good idea

          Yuk. Good thing it's not lunch-time. Link for verification? Not easily found by Google "incinerating live sheep".

          1. Richard Jones 1
            WTF?

            @ igel 11@ inmypjs

            The live sheep shipments were incinerated during the battles with the French farmers over live sheep exports into markets that wanted them. It was some years back and you might have better luck seeking items about live sheep exports, (if you are one of us who allow ourselves to use Google). If you use other inferior search engines good luck.

          2. energystar
            Childcatcher

            Re: @ inmypjs

            "incinerating live sheep"... Yea, and dancing naked around the fire. Striping data from context a very light form of annoying proxy targets. [And I like Google].

        3. energystar
          Windows

          Re: @ inmypjs

          Come On. Long time ago that "If you do not like..." the subway, take the highway arguments doesn't spark any synapses. Please take that line out of your little manuals.

      2. FIA

        What do you mean if it so desires?

        I mean that in reality it's more likely machine read by algorithms to best target advertising, rather than a human sitting there reading everything I write.

        of course it reads your email which also gives it information about the people sending you email - so much for their right to privacy.

        I'm not sure I understand what point you're making here? What right to privacy?

        1. Email isn't end to end encrypted; sending an email and not assuming someone somewhere along the delivery chain isn't reading it is naieve. It's a postcard not a sealed letter.

        2. If someone is contacting me then either they know me, and if they desire to communicate privately they'll use one of the other communcation channels available, or they don't know me in which case the mail is unsolicited and I'd question as to why they were sending something with an expectation of privacy using a system where there is none.

        Frankly I equate @gmail.com with asshole.

        I'd think you'd have a point if it was something like google analytics, however when we're discussing an unencrypted protocol which comes with no expectation of privacy I think you're perhaps being a little too harsh.

    3. jonathan1

      I share a similar sentiment. We compromise for convience. With Google I know I'm the product. But maps is sooo handy. Still quite scary to see that location graph of everywhere I've been for the last few years even if its not paticularly exciting.

      Where it gets tricky however and what a lot of talk skims over this - we all give our data quite willingly to our family and friends to communicate with them. I went out to Regent's Park on Sunday with the parents for father's day. Mum went straight on FB and checked the family in. *sigh*.

      She is a silver haired social media queen. Happily installed and using Twitter, Facebook apps et al. All of which have kindly vacuumed out her contacts. I have tried informing her about what it all means but you get that distant look...As is thats nice but so what.

      Oh my brother runs Owncloud too. Looks cool. Doesn't help that his little brother, mother and father have kindly compromised him to stay in touch.

      1. energystar
        Angel

        " With Google I know I'm the product."

        Not the product, the producer. Neo, before unplugging from the Matrix.

  4. Mage Silver badge

    as Apple hasn’t been on reliant on digital advertising

    Well, Google and Facebook almost entirely make money from adverts, maybe entirely.

    Apple sells high margin hardware and x3 supermarket margin on iTunes sales. So Apple doesn't need advertising at all.

    Are Google and Facebook actually helping to destroy the advertising industry in the long run with their abusive attitude to privacy and consumers?

    1. Sealand
      Holmes

      Re: as Apple hasn’t been on reliant on digital advertising

      "Apple sells high margin hardware and x3 supermarket margin on iTunes sales. So Apple doesn't need advertising at all."

      Which of course only applies until competition forces Apple to lower their iThing margins, at which time they have the data ready for unpolluting and subsequent mining.

      1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

        Re: as Apple hasn’t been on reliant on digital advertising

        "Which of course only applies until competition forces Apple to lower their iThing margins"

        Vodafone has just released an own-brand not dirt cheap (£295) phone which they must know will eat into their Apple and Samsung sales. It would never be wise to announce peak iPhone, Apple have shown great resilience in holding onto their margins, but these days there is nothing compelling for most people other than perceived status.

        I find it hard to believe that people who use Facebook to broadcast to the word what they had for breakfast will find privacy very compelling. On the other hand there are undoubted benefits from Google's mining if, like me, you live a life unlikely to attract the attention of either the police or criminals but suffer from increasingly failing memory.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: as Apple hasn’t been on reliant on digital advertising

          >On the other hand there are undoubted benefits from Google's mining if, like me, you live a life unlikely to attract the attention of either the police or criminals but suffer from increasingly failing memory.

          The drug smuggler Howard Marks was once asked how he, a man who smoked a lot of hash, could remember enough of his past to write a best-selling autobiography, Mr Nice:

          "Oh, that was easy, the FBI had me under surveillance for years... I just asked them for their file on me under their Freedom of information laws."

    2. MrDamage

      Re: as Apple hasn’t been on reliant on digital advertising

      To say Google and douchebook are destroying the advert industry via privacy violations is like saying commercial tv were destroying the advert industry by playing adverts which SHOUTED AT YOU just in case the people making a cuppa during the ad break couldn't hear what was being spewed over the screen.

      As long as the convenience outweighed the cost, most punters wouldn't give a shit about privacy, or their eardrums.

    3. Richard Jones 1
      WTF?

      Re: as Apple hasn’t been on reliant on digital advertising

      Do apple still punt their entirely stupid beacon thing?

      1. energystar
        Windows

        Do apple still punt their entirely stupid beacon thing?

        Well 'spin' use to be 'productive'. ;D

        No, really. Out of pure faith, just a little more on Them.

    4. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

      Re: as Apple hasn’t been on reliant on digital advertising

      "Are Google and Facebook actually helping to destroy the advertising industry in the long run with their abusive attitude to privacy and consumers?"

      I sincerely hope so.

  5. Pseu Donyme

    re: "Modern data protection legislation which assumes that metadata is anonymous would need to be rewritten."

    Re-writing would be ideal, of course. Then again what there is in the EU already covers this if interpreted with the law's purpose (privacy, self-determination) in mind. In this sense the the Schrems decision is very encouraging: the ECJ actually considers privacy and data protection fundamental rights to be protected as such.

  6. Paul Shirley
    Holmes

    If a tree falls but no one sees it...

    If a targeted advert isn't seen in a forest of adblocking, does it have any impact? And how long will the advertiser continue to pay for that useless information?

    [no comment on actually protecting privacy implied, though I agree it's a right PIA everywhere and with everyone]

  7. John Lilburne Silver badge

    Sick and tired

    Of people suggesting hacks, workaround, and obscure settings, to temporarily avoid corporate surveillance. You really don't need any of the shit that is tracking you. We got on very well for years and years without some GPS enabled device, without broadcasting to the world exactly what we were doing, and without the constant need to check messages, tweets, or status updates. It is all bullshit and hasn't enhanced our lives at all.

    Dump the crap.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sick and tired

      "We got on very well for years and years without some GPS enabled device"

      Well, my wife refuses to drive in cities but is a terrible navigator. I can assure you that satnav has prevented a number of acrimonious arguments, and when walking around, Google maps has prevented us heading off in the wrong direction.

      1. Richard Jones 1
        Happy

        Re: Sick and tired

        Does Google map thing replace an A to Z? I avoid cities the way some might avoid plague pits, in my mind they are essentially the same, though cesspit fits better with some locations.

        Odd that no one has mentioned that stupid Beacon rubbish thing that Apple were punting.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Sick and tired

          >Odd that no one has mentioned that stupid Beacon rubbish thing that Apple were punting.

          No one, except for the Bluetooth SIG in their specs for Bluetooth 5.0, which will have 8x the bandwidth for 'connectionless traffic' than previous versions.

          http://www.informationweek.com/mobile/mobile-devices/bluetooth-5-five-things-for-it-to-know/a/d-id/1325970

          1. energystar
            Windows

            Re: Sick and tired

            "will have 8x the bandwidth..." and mesh networking. Wait, are we talking s#!t?

        2. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Sick and tired

          >Does Google map thing replace an A to Z?

          It can do. Other mapping and navigation solutions are available.

          As an added bonus, Google Maps will show areas of slow-moving traffic in real time, and so suggest routes that are quicker at the time. It will also show you where you are on the map, and be up-to-date with business address and even show you photo so you know when you are there. It will also tell you the opening hours of a public house, and at what times it is typically busy.

          Of course the downsides are that you need some battery life in your phone (though most cars can be fitted with a phone charger) and either a data connection or the foresight to pre-load map data onto your phone.

          In fact, this is very good example of the 'herd benefit' of using anonymous data from many users - Google know when their is congestion because some Android phones will be sending speed and location data to Google - so if everyone on a particular road is going at 40 Mph when an hour earlier they were doing 70, Google knows there is an accident or roadworks. Of course, Google being Google, they do have your identifiable location data too unless you opt out of it, but it still stands as an example of the concept.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Sick and tired

        So would the open source android app OSMAND... Infinitely better than google rubbish.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Sick and tired

          Nope. 2D only. Doesn't work well in a car. Tried all the others (even Here); they don't compare to Google, especially if you're going to be driving in traffic.

  8. ratfox Silver badge
    Unhappy

    I'm mostly pessimistic

    I believe privacy and anonymity are dying. It is going to be harder and harder to keep them, until the effort will be so disproportionate that the vast majority of people will just give up. Sometimes it feels most of them already did.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm mostly pessimistic

      I suspect it was never viable long term. Privacy was a rarity in the past, remember, and only became a real thing for the common man with the Industrial Revolution. The global village is coming, and there's nothing you can do to stop it because you're outnumbered.

    2. Nixinkome

      Re: I'm mostly pessimistic

      It has often been pointed out that those wanting to restrict surveillance shall narrow their activities to a sub-set of those not wanting to.

      With new borns being electronically socially identified, those forsaking personal interaction with electronic communicators will still be locatable and identifiable.

      Just to make easily found hermits feel better, physical intrusion by security services will still be mandatory [one pad users] in case there is something they don't yet know.

      Yep, despite data pollution, give up.

    3. energystar
      Boffin

      Re: I'm mostly pessimistic

      Cheer Up, ratfox. To start with, we couldn't chat like that just a few years ago, without censure going into active mode. The general idea is that a few very good ideas will come out of this, allowing a little shielding to the individual.

    4. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

      Re: I'm mostly pessimistic

      Thank the blabbermouths posting their minutiae doings on Faecebook and Twatter, Washup and the like

  9. TaabuTheCat

    Mandatory reading

    That link to "surveillance capitalism". Thanks very much for that.

  10. Tikimon Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Google's original appeal is eroding fast

    In Ye Dark Days of Lycos et. al., Google did bring forth Reliable Internet Search. And it was good.

    Not so much anymore. Google's search (your mileage may vary) returns good results less and less these days. It's a perfect storm of:

    - Bubbling. Limiting results based on previous searches. Hey, that was last year dammit.

    - "Oh, you really meant THIS, right?". Ignoring my quote-enclosed exact search term to give 50% hits based on irrelevant crap they THINK I might really be searching for.

    - Dilution and pollution with hits from those paying to have their irrelevant crap injected into my results list. At the top of the list, of course.

    - Not related to search, but Big Brother tracking and whoring my data to anyone with ten cents.

    I don't use Google anymore. The clean, relevant search results I used to get are a thing of the past. Funny, Better Search is the justification for the data mining, ennit?

  11. Baldy50

    Any use?

    As far as email goes these are some options.

    Countermail based in Sweden uses OpenPGP and sports 2048 bits encryption keys, USB verification to log in,but poor storage unless paying.

    Neomailbox based in the Netherlands ans Switzerland so strict privacy laws, high strength SSL encryption, disposable aliases but not free.

    Runbox based in Norway, good privacy laws, good storage, not free.

    Safemail, don't know where this one is based, Dodgy IMHO, been down a lot and not cheap.

    Vmail based in France, reasonable storage.

    E-mail Made in Germany based only in Germany, multiple servers connected like a Tor network, good encryption on all transmission paths, reasonable storage.

    Swiss Mail based in Swizerland, good encryption, AV protection, not free.

    cryptoheaven based in Canada, very good encryption, emails encrypted before sending, not free.

    SecureNym based offshore, good privacy, good encryption, not free.

    privacyoffshore based in northern America and the EU, very very high security and encryption, secured tunnel alone Bi tunnel or with proxy's, requires additional software installed to work, not

    countermail based in Sweden, good privacy and encryption, emails encrypted before sending, USB option, not free.

    s-mail based on a big fat cloud somewhere?, good privacy and security, not free but cheap.

    hushmail based on a big fat cloud somewhere?, reasonable security and encryption, good storage, not free

    Ther'es mailvelope, HTTPS Everywhere, Ghostery, Calomel, Disconnect, NoScript, uMatrix, Blur, KeeFox, BetterPrivacySelf-Destructing Cookies, Bloody Vikings, Clean Links,WOT,Do Not Track Me, Secure Sanitizer, Webutation, safe gmail add ons/extensions to your browser as well.

    I'm curious I check the SSl validation of this site out of noseyness.

    A few not worth mentioning.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Any use?

      Bet you credits to milos the NSA has already hacked all of them and can therefore get past any encryption envelope.

  12. Baldy50

    Calomel add on for Firefox SSL validation tool

    Security Unsafe - Unsecured www.theregister.co.uk

    I don't think Calomel have come across your site, the email provider I use gets a clean bill of health.

    Vivaldi.net, full scores across the board and being hosted from Oslo I doubt it goes anywhere near a US sever unless emailing to someone in the US.

    Good rating from WOT.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is the clout of Apple enough to clawback privacy...?

    ~ Apple are an American public company. They're unlikely to comply, unless they see big money in it.

    ~ What's surprised me overall, is how few companies if any have chosen to devise privacy-based business-models, despite everything we learned from Snowden...

    ~ Every Smart TV maker, IoT and Carmaking a$$hole still wants in on the slurping game...

    ~ That's making me buy less tech gear. But it isn't stopping consumers i.e. families with children... WTF???

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We need to send a message: No more!!!!

    I thought Snowden would herald change...Organize protests of "Mass Unplugging'.... The slow-boiling-frog is our privacy eroding. It has global implications that no one can understand. Orwell was an amateur, how depressing is that!

  15. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
    Pint

    Suggestion...

    Spend a few minutes shopping for (for example) bikinis.

    Google, Amazon, eBay, etc.

    Ads will improve.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Suggestion...

      "Ads will improve"

      Ads? There are ads on android?

      1. energystar
        Holmes

        There are ads on android?

        "Spend a few minutes SEARCHING for (for example) bikinis."

        "Your Ads will improve".

        You're welcome ;)

  16. hellwig Silver badge

    Apple isn't the Good Guy

    Does anyone really believe that Apple won't try to monetize your information the second their stock price drops? Microsoft obviously found some value in doing so, rolling out Windows 10 at the very same time they ran commercials trying to convince people to move to Outlook.com because Google scans your emails.

    Apple may say user privacy is key, until it isn't. Market share is falling every day. Apple's going to need something to keep the directors happy, and one would argue the average financial value of an Apple customer far outweighs the same for a Google user.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Other GPS

    Does TomTom or Garmin have Google type problems - I mean I have never used a smartphone with google/whatever map-apps (not even TomTom).

    I use a cheap phone and was once accused of having a burner phone as a result. Mind you it is normally powered-down

    Mines the one with the AA map and cheapo phone in the pockets (the TomTom is in the car)

    1. energystar
      Trollface

      "I use a cheap phone and was once accused of having a burner phone as a result."

      Time will come when your Mail Service Provider at your office will politely ask if your mobile has been left uncharged. [/joke]

  18. OsamaBinLogin

    Pay Cash.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Kind of hard to do that over the Internet, and most places either don't take C.O.D. or place a hefty surcharge on it.

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