Monday, July 29, 2019

Inside Apple’s iPhone Testing Facilities

Andrew Griffin (via Phil Schiller, Hacker News):

“I can tell you that privacy considerations are at the beginning of the process, not the end,” says Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering. “When we talk about building the product, among the first questions that come out is: how are we going to manage this customer data?”


It might seem unlikely that any normal phone would be subjected to this kind of beating, given the chance of their owners going through an environment that chills them to -40C or heats them to 110C. But the fear here is not normal at all. If the chips were found to be insecure under this kind of pressure, then bad actors would immediately start putting phones through it, and all the data they store could be boiled out of them.

If such a fault were found after the phones make their way to customers, there would be nothing Apple could do. Chips can’t be changed after they are in people’s hands, unlike software updates. So it looks instead to find any possible dangers in this room, tweaking and fixing to ensure the chips can cope with anything thrown at them.


Apple, by design, doesn’t even know which of its own employees it is harvesting [health] data about. The employees don’t know why their data is being harvested, only that this work will one day end up in unknown future products.

Nick Heer:

This claim goes uncontested by Griffin, but it’s wrong. All iCloud data created by Chinese users is stored in China; even the iCloud user agreement for Chinese users is between the user and GCBD, not the user and Apple. Also, Apple’s software actively encourages customers to use iCloud services from a few moments after they power up a device for the first time. It is therefore misleading, at best, to state that Apple collects less data. The company may not collect behavioural data to the same extent as its competitors, but that does not apply to user-provided data.

The next paragraph is similarly misleading[…]


After re-reading this, it’s clear that my disputes are with the reporter’s explanations, not Federighi’s.

John Gruber (tweet):

Google and Facebook are both pushing back against Apple, arguing that Apple’s stance on privacy is only possible because they charge a lot of money for their products.

I think the point that needs to be made is that free and low-cost products can be subsidized by privacy-respecting advertising — but privacy-respecting advertising is not as profitable as privacy-invasive advertising, as exemplified on Facebook and Google’s humongous platforms.

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Regarding @Nick Heer's confusion, to be fair, Apple has pushed the protection of user data and privacy narrative so hard, the press really should be looking more into Apple's deal with China.

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