Besides the exciting developments Apple presented at its annual WWDC event in San Francisco, there were also some security related announcements that should not go unnoticed.
The Apple brand talked about a new concept that they are beginning to use in all of their services that they say is the future of how users manage personal information on their platforms: they call it differential privacy.
What does differential privacy consist of?
You may think of Apple as a privacy defender; they are known to favor encryption and implement different measures in order to protect the personal data of their users. But in the age of “big data”, tech companies like Apple are also seeking as many personal details as possible about their users. Like any business, the tech company run by Tim Cook needs to know everything about their customers, both current and future.
How can the tech company seek personal data, while at the same, keep it private? It’s a privacy vs. government race (especially in the United States). Luckily for Apple users, in the realm of user privacy, this multinational giant is in the lead.
Apple has come up with something they call differential privacy. In other words, they extract conclusions about users and groups (or subgroups), while at the same time, ensuring that the information belonging to each one of those individuals is totally private.
Differential privacy lets you gain insights from large datasets, but with a mathematical proof that no one can learn about a single individual
“Differential privacy lets you gain insights from large datasets, but with a mathematical proof that no one can learn about a single individual,” explained Aaron Roth, a profesor of computer science at the University of Pennsylvania, who “[wrote] the book” on differential privacy, according to Apple’s Craig Federighi.
Much More Than Anonymizing Data
This does not anonymize data like many other internet services, which has proven to fail in many occasions. In 2007, for example, a group of investigators demonstrated how they were able to de-anonymize the “anonymous” data published on Netflix.
On the contrary, with their new focus Apple will not pass information from its devices to its servers until the data passes through a transformation process where it will go through various techniques like cryptographic and flow noise functions to ensure that it is mathematically impossible to associate your data with your identity.
They are not the only technology giant that is adopting differential privacy to protect their users’ personal information: other big businesses share this new idea including Google, and Microsoft, whose team of experts even includes some of the concept’s founders.