Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

The Star of WWDC Was Privacy

Michael Simon, Macworld (fire up your script blockers and get ready to enter your browser’s reader mode):

Apple’s privacy push extends to watchOS, too. One of the main features is an app called Noise, which routinely monitors background sound and alerts you when a sustained sound might be damaging to your hearing. It’s the kind of surprise-and-delight feature only Apple would think of putting in a smartwatch — let alone attempt to implement in an existing consumer product at a massive scale — but Apple also considered something most people wouldn’t think of: All of Noise’s audio processing are done in real time, and Apple doesn’t record or save any of the sounds it hears.

For any other company, that’s not a day one feature. It’s something that’s added following an apology when someone uncovers a secret trove of audio recordings on a server. Or even worse, after said recordings are stolen as part of a hack. The Noise app announcement could have came and went without a promise of privacy and no one would have questioned it. No one would have even thought of it.

Andy Greenberg, Wired:

In upcoming versions of iOS and macOS, the new Find My feature will broadcast Bluetooth signals from Apple devices even when they’re offline, allowing nearby Apple devices to relay their location to the cloud. That should help you locate your stolen laptop even when it’s sleeping in a thief’s bag. And it turns out that Apple’s elaborate encryption scheme is also designed not only to prevent interlopers from identifying or tracking an iDevice from its Bluetooth signal, but also to keep Apple itself from learning device locations, even as it allows you to pinpoint yours.

There’s a lot to like about WWDC this year, as Apple has meaningfully iterated on every single one of its platforms in a big way. But preserving user privacy from design through implementation has been a central theme this year, as well as in years past. And it’s paying off: both Facebook and Google made a show of being privacy-conscious at their respective developer events this year, though neither has proposed altering a surveillance-based business model.

Privacy is rapidly becoming a requirement from the perspective of users as well as the law, and companies that have banked on being able to collect whatever data they want are going to find it hard to adapt. Apple already assumes that you don’t want them to surveil you.