Dark iClouds, Silver Pocket Lining: Apple's New Privacy Promises Are Only Half True

Did you hear that there's a new iPhone? If you didn't, then you surely don't know one of the record 10 million people who bought one over the weekend or one of the millions of others who are openly pining over the iPhone 6 or do much online reading or television watching. Both the tech and retail industries are freaking out about the incredible sales, as the numbers are reportedly a good sign for the upcoming holiday season.

While much of the release's hoopla surrounded the iPhone's larger screens — Apple's first foray into the "phablet" market — there was an undercurrent of enthusiasm for the company's new privacy policy:

On devices running iOS 8, your personal data such as photos, messages (including attachments), email, contacts, call history, iTunes content, notes, and reminders is placed under the protection of your passcode. Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data. So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.

Sounds great, right? Apple is practically bragging about its inability to comply with government warrants because the data on the iPhone is encrypted with the owner's passcode, something Apple ostensibly does not know.

While this is certainly an upgrade from previous operating systems, Apple is still urging its customers to back-up their data on the all-knowing, all-seeing iCloud. And just ask Jennifer Lawrence or Gabrielle Union about the security of their privacy when connected to Apple's massive data collection.

Apple is certainly scrambling to make sure people's photos, contacts and private messages are secure from hackers, but the company is still encrypting your data with its own passcode. This of course means that the braggadocio-brimming swagger of its new privacy policy quoted above does not apply to your data in its warehouses of servers. Apple can no longer claim a technical infeasibility when served with government warrants.

According to The Intercept (which has some great tips on keeping your data private), Google and Yahoo are starting to build end-to-end encryption into their email services to keep themselves from being able to comply with government requests for user data. It took a few years for Apple to join the rest of the market with bigger screens, hopefully the jump to better privacy will be much quicker.

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Brandon Perkins
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