Apple launched a new privacy website that lets you find all the data the company has on you

  • Apple's new privacy website launch fulfills a company promise of making it easier and faster for customers to find what personal information is kept by Apple.
  • The new website is a continuation of the company's narrative, reinforced by CEO Tim Cook this past March, that it wants to be viewed as a technology company that makes its money selling products rather than consumer data.
Tim Cook
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Tim Cook

Apple is moving forward several privacy upgrades Wednesday, including launching a portal that allows customers to search and see what kind of data the company has kept on them.

The privacy portal was already tested in the European Union in May, coinciding with the EU's launch of restrictive privacy legislation called the General Data Protection Legislation (GDPR). The information collected may include data such as calendar entries, photos, reminders, documents, website bookmarks, App Store purchases or support history of repairs to your devices, among other items.

The search function, which provides customers a report on their tracked data, fits into a broader narrative as Apple seeks to differentiate itself as a company that makes its money from selling hardware, rather than targeted ads based on the data of its customers.

In March, CEO Tim Cook said in an interview: "The truth is, we could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer — if our customer was our product. We've elected not to do that."

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg followed up those comments with his own, saying Cook was "extremely glib" and argued that Facebook's business model is "the only rational model that can support building this service to reach people."

Backing off tracking, machine fingerprinting

In addition to the search portal, Apple has launched several enhanced privacy initiatives with its new website and new iOS 12 operating system for iPhones and iPads.

The company is touting its "Intelligent Tracking Prevention" technology, essentially a way to stop the kind of data collection that causes consumers to see ads for products related to their recent purchases or web searches.

Apple has also made changes standardizing certain settings to prevent so-called "machine fingerprinting" or "browser fingerprinting," a way that a person's individual device can be identified using its unique settings and preferences, like special fonts, even if the customer has blocked other forms of data tracking.

There are future plans for privacy as well, according to the company, including end-to-end encryption for its Group FaceTime video chat product, which will launch soon and will allow up to 32 people to join a group conversation.

Encryption will also protect the new "Screentime" feature, so users will be able to keep information about how often they use their devices private.

As was the case with the EU search portal launch in May, the website is one way Apple is attempting to take a continued proactive approach to privacy regulation.

Cook will serve as the keynote speaker of the 2018 International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners next week in Brussels, which is one of the year's most significant gatherings of privacy regulators. And last week, the company weighed in on proposed encryption regulation in Australia.