ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Apple Walking a Dangerous Line With Hidden Tracking Feature in iOS 12

Updated on September 20, 2018
RJ Schwartz profile image

I try to present technology issues in a way that people can easily understand them

The iOS 12 update available now from Apple has a hidden feature. Buried within the coding, the engineers at Apple have quietly slipped in yet another feature which allows them to spy on their customers. This roll-out was issued from Apple on September 17th, 2018. It’s currently being under-reported by the media and most users are probably unaware of its existence.

Now, according to Apple, each user’s phone calls, text messages, and e-mails will be tracked so that Apple can develop a “trust score” for the device. Yes, you read that correctly, Apple wants to put a trust score on your personal device; the device you paid for and own. The details sound foreboding, plus they reek of more control by Big Tech. If you’ve already upgraded to iOS 12, Apple is adding up the number of calls and texts you make each day, plus the number of e-mails you receive and send on your personal device. They claim to have developed a method to compute a device trust score by adding up those communication occurrences. This “trust score” will somehow be utilized when you make future on-line purchases with said device. The company claims that no one at Apple will be able to access these scores, including the owner of the device. Apple has also stated that the scores will be stored on Apple servers for a non-disclosed length of time.

Trust Us...Not!

Apple was quick to state that they won’t be reading any of the messages or listening-in on any of the calls, only extracting summary data. As expected, they are also claiming that the information will never be shared with anyone else. Furthermore, this information will never be used for marketing or advertising purposes. With so many questionable practices being observed throughout social media and big technology, many people are already skeptical of the claims, after the first few days. Also, the fact that this was forced on all users, meaning that there is no opt-out clause,brings up the question of privacy rights of the individual. The new provisions can be found in the iTunes Store and Privacy Window of iOS and tvOS devices. The following quote is pulled from that provision.

“To help identify and prevent fraud, information about how you use your device, including the approximate number of phone calls or email’s you send and receive, will be used to compute a device trust score when you attempt a purchase. The submissions are designed so Apple cannot learn the real values on your device. The scores are stored for a fixed time on our servers.”

The addition to the latest iOS update is part of a program Apple claims to be based in a larger fraud prevention program. But what it appears like to the users is a variation of what is happening on other platforms. It seems that Apple is trying to follow Facebook and rate their customer’s trustworthiness for reasons which seem unnecessary and subjective to an unseen rating system. They are doing this without any real justification or proof that their efforts will do anything to prevent fraud. Additionally, Apple claims that the score will help to stop Spam to the App Store, curb the propagation of false reviews and false purchases. One on-line user has already pointed out an obvious flaw to the Apple statement; Apple TV’s don’t make phone calls or send texts, yet they are lumped in the data-collection scheme.

Summary

This is the same company which refused to cooperate with the FBI in unlocking the phones of the San Bernardino couple that murdered 14 and injured 22 in a terrorist attack. The management at Apple has been unwilling to share anything but now they suddenly want to start data-basing a metric which seems to have no bearing on trustworthiness. A spokesperson from Apple claimed it would help them determine if content is being purchased by the actual named purchaser. Some believe this is directly related to the Singapore incident earlier this year in which customers were charged thousands of dollars from iTunes when scammers accessed their information. To date, there are still questions on how this happened and who should bear the financial responsibility.

For now, it seems that once-again, Big Tech has struck another damaging blow to privacy rights. There is no way to find out what your score is and how the trust system they’ve built even works. In this writer’s opinion, unless Apple does something soon to show good faith and transparency, it’s likely that Congress will take the matter to public hearings and demand answers. For now, I’m holding off on my updates; are you?

© 2018 Ralph Schwartz

Comments

Submit a Comment

  • tsadjatko profile image

    4 weeks ago from now on

    “no one at Apple will be able to access these scores, including the owner of the device. Apple has also stated that the scores will be stored on Apple servers for a non-disclosed length of time.”

    So no human being will be able to access the scores that are stored on an Apple server for who knows how long? Who is running Apple, the computers? Have their computers taken over the company and the humans don’t have access to servers anymore or know what the servers are doing?

  • RJ Schwartz profile imageAUTHOR

    Ralph Schwartz 

    4 weeks ago from Idaho Falls, Idaho

    Thanks for sharing your opinion on the topic.

  • Glenn Stok profile image

    Glenn Stok 

    4 weeks ago from Long Island, NY

    I didn’t install iOS 12 yet, but I see it’s available on both my iPad and iPhone. Every time they update iOS they break something else. It takes several updates before broken features are fixed again. So I go slow with updates.

    Nevertheless, Ralph, if all they’re doing is keeping a counter of usage for emails, calls, and texts, then I guess this is not too invasive on privacy.

  • Jonathan Wylie profile image

    Jonathan Wylie 

    4 weeks ago from Iowa, USA

    I think your interpretation is a little misleading. For one thing, this is not under reported. New York Post, Venture Beat, BGR, The Motley Fool, The Telegraph, The Independent, Business Insider and many more all have reported on this. A quick Google search will show this.

    For another, I can't see how this is a "damaging blow to privacy rights" when the quote you pulled from the TOC says Apple cannot learn the real values of the data and that it is only stored temporarily. Perhaps a better explanation comes from the quote Venture Beat got from an Apple spokesperson.

    "Apple says that the only data it receives is the numeric score, which is computed on-device using the company’s standard privacy abstracting techniques, and retained only for a limited period, without any way to work backward from the score to user behavior. No calls, emails, or other abstractions of that data are shared with Apple." https://venturebeat.com/2018/09/18/apple-creates-a...

    The system was not designed to spy on users, but rather to detect fraud in iTunes purchases, and that's a good thing. I have no problem with that. Especially when no calls, emails, or other abstractions of that data are shared with Apple

    Now I know that Apple are no saints, their off shore tax agreements with other countries are testament to that, but if you look at the work they are doing with differential privacy, and compare that to what Google, Facebook and Amazon are doing, then they are nowhere near as bad as you might think.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)