- Apple stores information about you, and you can download a copy of what it has.
- Apple knows the apps you've downloaded, the music you've downloaded and the books you've purchased. It also knows all the devices you've bought.
- Apple doesn't store other identifiable information, like your email or location, as some other tech companies do.
Apple has repeatedly said it doesn't store a lot of personal information about users, and I found that to be true. If you've been using iTunes for a long time, however, you might be surprised by what Apple has.
Here's how to download your own archive of the information Apple knows about you.
I dug through my archive of data and found that Apple mostly keeps tabs on my interactions with the App Store and iTunes. It has a list of every single app, song, book, music video and in-app purchase I've made on my Apple devices dating all the way back to 2010. There's also a log of every time those apps were updated.
It also knows all of the songs I ever stored in iTunes Match, the service that lets you keep a cloud copy of your personal music files wherever you go.
There's even a copy of every product that I've purchased from Apple, dating to an iPhone 5, including serial numbers for all of those products. Apple also has a log of every customer support query I've made, ranging from cracked screens to questions about iPhone activation. When repairs were made, it has a log of what was damaged and serial numbers for the old and replacement parts that were added.
Aside from purchases, Apple doesn't seem to know much else. The company's privacy response team, which you need to contact in order to download the file, explains why:
"We have not included information contained within your account, if any, such as calendar contents, email contents, iTunes content etc. If you use iCloud you will note that we have extremely short retention periods for how long we store such data and we have provided all data that was available to us at the time at which we processed your request on our systems. I would also like to highlight the following from our message on Customer Privacy at http://www.apple.com/apples-commitment-to-customer-privacy: For example, conversations which take place over iMessage and FaceTime are protected by end-to-end encryption so no one but the sender and receiver can see or read them. Apple cannot decrypt that data. Similarly, we do not store data related to customers' location, Map searches or Siri requests in any identifiable form.
You can download your own archive of this data from Apple. Here's how:
- Scroll down to the section titled "Access to Personal Information." It's worth reading and says explains that Apple will provide you with a copy of the information it holds if you request it.
- Click the "Privacy Contact Form" link.
- Choose your language.
- Select "I have a question about privacy issues" from the drop-down box.
- Fill in your first and last name, email, subject and comments. I noted that I was requesting a copy of my personal information in the comments field.
- Click submit.
Now you'll need to wait for a response.
Apple's privacy team will reach out to request some of the same personal information above, in addition to your Apple ID, a registered product serial number and a previous AppleCare support case number. This is to verify your identity.
Then you'll wait. It took me six days to finally get the file from Apple. A second email included a password that's used to open the zip file, which is an added measure of security. By comparison, Facebook had my data within an hour or so, while Google took about 48 hours.
Apple stores information about you. It's mostly related to the content you're consuming or products you're buying, including apps, music and books. There isn't anything here that shows logs of my messages, specific locations, ads I've clicked or copies of my photos, which are some of the things that Google and Facebook have.
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