Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Opt-in for Differential Privacy Features Is Unclear in iOS 10

Greg Barbosa, 9to5Mac:

Korolova and her student Jun Tang discovered that Apple had lumped in the mention of differential privacy under two different diagnostic sections in iOS 10. With iOS 10, opting in to having diagnostic and usage data sent automatically to app developers means that users are also automatically subjected to data collection using differential privacy. It seems that if a user wants to submit diagnostic data to developers, but not be subject to the collection of this new data, they’re out of luck.

Most of the non-technical people I know will try to get through the long iOS setup process as quickly as they can, and they don’t necessarily read each page in full. Virtually everyone I know has disallowed the submission of diagnostics and usage data and, consequently, opted out of differential privacy features as well.

If differential privacy allows Apple to collect data while keeping it entirely non-specific and unidentifiable, it should be presented as a great way to make every iOS device smarter while keeping information private.

But the entire setup process also ought to be shorter, while allowing users a similar level of control over their privacy and security. Though this may seem paradoxical, I think the critical factor in the unfriendliness of the setup process is the number of pages and options presented. This could be made less intimidating by, for instance, storing as many options and settings as possible in iCloud, and allowing the user to confirm them on a single page during setup. Something like that would go a long way towards making a shorter setup process that asks less of the user, gets them using their device sooner, and maintains their privacy.