Differential privacy in iOS 10 or how to collect data from your users without invading their privacy

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Little by little, we’re getting to grips with all the details left over from the Apple Developers Conference that opened yesterday. One of the novelties that went unnoticed was the new method that Apple will use with iOS 10 to keep our privacy safe. This is the differential privacy , a statistical method applied to data collection and management.

Differential privacy in iOS 10 or how to collect data from your users without invading their privacy
Differential privacy in iOS 10 or how to collect data from your users without invading their privacy

Javier Pastor has a quite complete article in Xataka in which he details the origin of this branch of mathematics. It was developed in 2006 by Microsoft Research, being Cynthia Dwork, Frank McSherry, Kobbi Nissim and Adam Smith its authors. The work can be read in this link.

We will probably start to hear more and more about this concept which, although not an Apple invention, we will see become popular from iOS 10 onwards. What stands out about this discipline is the use that Apple will give it .

Differential privacy, how Apple applies it

This excerpt from the explanation given by the Apple executive explains how the differential privacy applied by Apple works. According to Wired, it is a way to learn as much as possible about a group of people without knowing anything about the individuals that make up that group.

Differential privacy makes it mathematically impossible to find out about individual persons

This analysis is done in such a way that it is not mathematically possible to find anything about individual people. According to Aaron Roth, professor of computer science at the University of Pennsylvania, this method manages to prevent anonymous data from being analysed by cross-checking it with other databases.

Although Apple specifies where it will use differential privacy, it is likely to expand to other features in the future.

Protection against hackers and governments

Cupertino’s company wants to protect the privacy of its users by avoiding collecting data that can be analyzed. By employing this technique, Apple is not in possession of information that could be stolen . Or, as we have seen in recent months, forced to hand over to the authorities following an order that the company considers unfair.

The war over the security of Apple devices intensified at the beginning of the year following the bombing in San Bernardino, California. A judge, at the behest of the FBI, ordered Apple to assist the government agency in any way possible . The company fought to defend its refusal to provide this information on the grounds that it would create the equivalent of “cancer-causing software”.

Apple maintains its position of “I can’t give you what I don’t have” and “you can’t take away what I don’t keep”

In the last few weeks, that push to support the anti-encryption law in the US has lost support and will be discarded. But that doesn’t mean Apple is going to let down its guard. Through differential privacy, even if a hacker accesses the servers or receives a court order, there will be no information about specific users.

Apple continues its policy of “you can’t steal from me or ask me for what I don’t have” to defend itself and avoid problems in the future. They don’t want the safety of their users to be compromised.

At Apple

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