Mac of All Trades: Apple Calls on Developers


Apple Inc. thinks it really can do it all: keep users’ information private while using their data to develop software.

Apple developers introduced a statistical method that gathers information from big groups of user data, while keeping personal information private during the Worldwide Developers Conference this week, according to Wired

The method, called differential privacy, will be part of Apple’s iOS 10 software, which will be available this fall. 

Differential privacy would give Apple the same perks as companies that rely on personal data to tailor services to consumers based on how they use products, while staying true to the company’s long-standing commitment to privacy. 

Apple Senior Vice President of Software Engineering Craig Federighi said in his keynote address that differential privacy will allow the company to enable “crowdsourced learning” while keeping user data private. “Apple has been doing some super-important work in this area to enable differential privacy to be deployed at scale,” Federighi said.

During a presentation, Apple boasted University of Pennsylvania computer scientist Aaron Roth’s support. Roth called the company’s plan for differential privacy “visionary.”

iOS 10 will also use “on-device intelligence” to do things like recognize people in photos and offer typing suggestions without storing the information on Apple’s servers, according to a company release. Other information, from applications like Siri or maps, will be sent to the servers, but not to create full user profiles.  

Apple already encrypts all users’ communications through iMessage and FaceTime. Tim Cook, the company’s CEO, defended encryption after the FBI wanted Apple to install a system that would allow the government to bypass iPhone security features after a shooting in San Bernardino, Calif.

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