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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

Google is essentially an advertising business, and it has far less motivation than Apple to worry about the happiness of its users; in turn, it has far more motivation to erode user privacy.

And Google has a truly vast network of data sources. Granted, if Apple turned into a surveillance power overnight it could potentially gain access to a large quantity of personal data from your iPhone and Mac. (Although even there it faces limits; as we discuss above, the firm claims that, in contrast with Syed Rizwan Farook's 5c, its most modern iPhones contain security measures that would prevent even Apple's own engineers from opening them up.) But Google has a search engine, a web analytics service, a social network and a desktop operating system; it has YouTube and Gmail; and its mapping service, web browser and mobile operating system each have far more users than Apple's equivalents.

Google is tapped into every aspect of our lives. It's SkyNet. It's the nearest thing to an all-knowing Big Brother that human society has known.

That's just the theory, but there's plenty of practical evidence to back it up: indeed, there are far more incidents of Google acting in a privacy-hostile manner than I can list here. But just as a taster:

Google has been criticised for too readily providing governments with information about their citizensprohibiting anonymous or pseudonymous accounts on various of its services; installing cookies with a lifespan of 32 years; refusing to offer a Do Not Track feature far longer than any other major browser maker; harvesting data from (admittedly unencrypted) private Wi-Fi networks across 30 countries without permission; and on the launch of Google Buzz making Gmail users' contact lists public by default.

In 2007 Privacy International gave Google (and Google alone) its lowest possible ranking: 'Hostile to Privacy'. In 2009 Google CEO and part-time Indiana Jones villain Eric Schmidt responded to privacy concerns by saying that "if you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

These cases and arguments represent merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Google and privacy. Those who are interested can read more on the subject at Slate, the EconomistWired and even the dedicated Wikipedia page on the subject. Also, for balance, take a look at Google's own privacy policy page.


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