Rather than vacuum up every statistical nugget allowed by law, Apple believes that “data minimization” – collecting and processing the smallest amount of information necessary to provide a service – is the best policy.

And at a time of growing consumer mistrust in the tech industry, the tech giant is touting its focus on data privacy as a major point of brand differentiation.

“At Apple, the way we define privacy is to put the consumers in the driver’s seat,” Jane Horvath, Apple’s senior director/global privacy, told delegates at the recent CES 2020 event. (For more details read WARC’s report: Apple lays out best practices for consumer data privacy.)

Within the organization, protecting user data is considered from the earliest stages of the product lifecycle, she stated: as Apple crafts new goods and services, it is always thinking “a year or two years ahead” and seeking to anticipate changing privacy needs.

“It really starts from the beginning. We have a team of privacy lawyers that report to me,” she said. “And we also have a team of privacy engineers. And, for every new product, even at the imminent beginning phases, we have a privacy engineer and a privacy lawyer assigned to work with the team.”

The data it does gather is utilized to improve the user experience in countless tiny ways – such as optimizing predictive text, spotting websites that negatively impact battery life, or highlighting the most popular emojis that feature in peer-to-peer messages.

“We use ‘differential’ privacy to inject noise into the dataset,” she explained. “That is one way that we’re protecting the consumer without making them make a choice. They want [to see] their emojis they use most frequently, but they don’t have to sacrifice privacy.”

Another aspect of data minimization is the use of the iPhone’s powerful processing capabilities to undertake numerous tasks “locally” on the device itself, instead of sending information to Apple’s servers for processing.

An example is the facial-recognition algorithm that can tag individuals in a user’s photos. “All of that is done on-device, synced across an encrypted cloud,” said Horvath

“So, all of your devices are smart, and know who’s in your photos, but Apple doesn’t.”

Sourced from WARC