A new report by ZDNet’s Zack Whittaker reveals just how little information Apple actually collects on customers in comparison to companies such as Facebook and Google. In the wake of the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, Whittaker decided to ask Apple for a full disclosure on all of the data that the company had collected on him since 2010 when he first became an Apple customer. While it took Apple a little over a week to respond with the data, Whittaker was surprised at how little was actually there — the resulting data set consisted of two dozen Excel spreadsheets totalling about 5 MB in size.
When Whittaker examined the data — the entire set of which he said could be perused in less than an hour — he discovered that none of the files contained any content at all, and instead consisted entirely of metadata, such as dates, times, and contact numbers for who he messaged via iMessage or called on FaceTime.
The files included details such as basic account information (name, address, phone number, and Apple ID), when the account was created, and the IP address of the Apple server where the account was opened. Additional files contained a record of each time a device connected with iCloud, but provided no indication of what data was actually transferred during those connections. Arguably the most private information contained in the disclosed files appeared to be a history of everything Whittaker ever purchased from Apple and detailed records of each Apple device, including not only serial numbers, but also things like MAC addresses for Bluetooth, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi connections.
Whittaker notes that by contrast, Facebook, Google, and Twitter were all able to supply the data they had on him much more quickly — generally within an hour — but the resulting files ranged from “a few hundred megabytes to a couple of gigabytes in size.” Apple has long taken a hardline stance on privacy, stating that it collects as little data as possible on its users, and that much of what it collects — such as Siri, Maps, and News requests — is done anonymously, since it’s not necessary to be able to identify specific users for data that’s purely used in analysis to improve its services. While Apple doesn’t yet offer a standard for users to request data disclosure, CNet explains how users can request this information by filling out the standard privacy contact form. [via iPhone in Canada]