Apple’s New Privacy Strategy and Encryption Setting


With Edward Snowden’s revelation of NSA’s PRISM-program and the subsequent involvement of US tech giants, suspicion towards these firms and privacy concerns have been on the rise (Greenwald and MacAskill, 2013). Furthermore, just two months ago it was reported that Apple engineered secret surveillance back doors into more than half a billion of its devices (Benson, 2014). Most recently, private photos from celebrities were stolen after hackers gained access to their Apple iCloud-accounts (Reuters, 2014). This raises the question, how can Internet titans – especially Apple – win back their customers’ trust?

Cue to Apple’s CEO Tim Cook announcing its new privacy statement two weeks ago. It emphasizes: “At Apple, your trust means everything to us” (Apple, 2014). With the release of the iPhone 6, it revealed its new and powerful encryption setting that helps to prevent law enforcement (FBI) and surveillance groups (NSA) from accessing private data (Frizell, 2014). The new technology on the iPhone 6 scrambles information by using a code. Solving that code, according to technical guide from Apple, might take “more than five-and-a-half years to try all combinations of a six-character alphanumeric passcode with lowercase letters and numbers” (Sanger and Chen, 2014).

Apple’s rival, Google is following suit and has announced that it will implement its own encryption setting for its new Android version (Chapman, 2014).

Even though privacy-minded users do appreciate this new setting, law enforcement and surveillance groups clearly do not. The FBI Director warned that the encryption technology might facilitate criminal behavior as criminals now know how to circumvent surveillance by authorities (Frizell, 2014).

Despite, Apple’s efforts and promises, personal files still cannot be fully protected. After all, with a warrant, authorities can still force suspects to unlock their phones, in order for them to access the data. In addition, data from third-party apps are also not protected. Last but not least, files that are stored on Apple’s iCloud still can be handed to authorities (Armbruster, 2014).

So what is your opinion? Is Apple’s new privacy statement merely a marketing gimmick or a serious attempt to protect its users’ data?

 

Sources:

Armbruster, A., 2014. Amerikas Strafverfolger alamiert wegen Apple. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Online, [online]23 September. Available at: <http://www.faz.net/aktuell/wirtschaft/netzwirtschaft/apple-s-datenverschluesselung-alarmiert-amerikas-strafverfolger-13168914.html&gt; [Accessed 27 September 2014].

Apple, 2014. A message from Tim Cook about Apple’s commitment to your privacy. [press release] 17 September 2014. Available at: <http://www.apple.com/privacy/&gt; [Accessed 27 September 2014].

Benson, J., 2014. Apple engineered surveillance back door into 600 million iPhones. Natural News, [online]22 July. Available at: <http://www.naturalnews.com/046127_iPhones_back_doors_surveillance.html#&gt;
[Accessed 27 September 2014].

Chapman, G., 2014. Google to boost Android encryption, joining Apple. Business Insider, [online]18 September. Available at: <http://www.businessinsider.com/afp-google-to-boost-android-encryption-joining-apple-2014-9&gt; [Accessed 27 September 2014].

Frizell, S., 2014. The FBI and NSA Hate Apple’s Plan to Keep Your iPhone Data Secret. Times Online, [online]27 September. Available at: < http://time.com/3437222/iphone-data-encryption/&gt;
[Accessed 27 September 2014].

Greenwald, G. and MacAskill, E., 2013. NSA Prism program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others. The Guardian, [online]7 June. Available at: <http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/06/us-tech-giants-nsa-data&gt; [Accessed 27 September 2014].

Reuters, 2014. Apple tightens iCloud security after celebrity nude photo hack. The Guardian, [online]5 September. Available at: < http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/sep/05/apple-tightens-icloud-security-after-celebrity-nude-photo-hack&gt; [Accessed 27 September 2014].

Sanger, D. E. and Chen, B. X., 2014. Signaling Post-Snowden Era, New iPhone Locks Out N.S.A. New York Times Online, [online]26 September. Available at: <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/27/technology/iphone-locks-out-the-nsa-signaling-a-post-snowden-era-.html&gt; [Accessed 27 September 2014].

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