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How private is your iPhone data, and how to protect your iPhone privacy

David Price | May 6, 2016
How private is your iPhone, and the personal data stored on it? We examine the iPhone's built-in privacy measures and show how to protect your privacy

It's still not completely clear how the FBI got into that rogue iPhone 5c - possibly the Israeli firm Cellebrite mentioned below - but the fact that it was able to do so without Apple's help obviously undermines the arguments it used in court.

Update, 24 March: Extraordinarily, the FBI appears to have backed down.

On Monday night, shortly before Apple was scheduled to start setting out its defence, the Department of Justice's legal team asked the judge to postpone the hearing on the grounds that it had found a third party who could help them break into the phone. (And presumably on the unstated grounds that it was no longer sure it could win the case, and didn't want to set a precedent.) The third party has since been revealed to be an Israeli forensic software firm named Cellebrite. The case is not officially over, but it looks like Apple has won. We offer them our sincere and hopefully not premature congratulations.

Update, 1 March: In a separate case that is likely to have a bearing on the San Bernardino judgement, a New York judge has sided with Apple and struck down an order for the company to hack a different iPhone, belonging this time to a drug dealer. "I conclude that none of those factors justifies imposing on Apple the obligation to assist the government's investigation against its will," wrote the judge. "I therefore deny the motion."

Both cases depend on the All Writs Act of 1789, and similar arguments are likely to be made when Apple appears again to justify its case against the FBI.

Google has a long-term record of privacy-hostile behaviour 

Google, by contrast, has both the means and the motive to pose a threat to its users' privacy.

Google's business model is very different to Apple's. Apple sells products, and premium-priced products at that; this is a strategy that depends on loyalty and love from your customers, but requires little sucking up to anyone else... except possibly the media. (And only the mainstream media; you probably wouldn't believe how aloof Apple is towards the tech press, who it feels confident will write about its products regardless of how they are treated.) Generally speaking, it is in Apple's best interests to treat its customers well. From time to time it may choose to make it relatively difficult for users to customise their watches, for example, or to download unauthorised software, but on the whole such tactics are intended to preserve a better user experience.

But Google gives away most of its best products, making money instead from the user data it collects in return. What Google actually sells isn't a search engine, or a mobile operating system; it's carefully targeted user eyeballs. As the old adage says, if you're not paying for a service then you're not a customer, you're a product.

 

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