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Apple does right by users and advertisers are displeased (eff.org)
433 points by DiabloD3 on Sept 21, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 339 comments



Which is exactly why as of last month bought my first iPhone. The pro privacy stance that Apple is taking is wonderful to see. No idea if anyone pushing this at Apple will ever read this but you have a customer for life if you continue to do so and will champion your products to their entire sphere of influence.


Agreed. Apple has been mostly good wrt to privacy in the past, but since they've started to make it a selling/differentiation point, I expect them to solidify their stance.

I think it's a genius move. People will begin to understand in the coming years just how much information these companies are tracking/extracting, and turn(or stay) to Apple.

I think users would care about privacy, if they truly knew just how much information is being gathered.


It’s also much easier to care about privacy when there is a viable alternate way to do something desirable which preserves privacy.

Care about privacy? Ok, don’t use gmail instead setup your own mail server and configure gpg.

Vs

Care about privacy? Ok: use apple products when they work for you.


Apple has shareholders and changing CEOs. This is really naive at best


Compared to most companies, their CEOs don't change that much. The last one stayed on for life, for example.

And with regard to displeasing shareholders - Tim Cook has no problem with that - to quote, "if you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock."

http://www.businessinsider.com/tim-cook-versus-a-conservativ...


He's not as bad as Steve Ballmer for example - though you can draw many parallels - but he's never had the vision Jobs had. iPhones and iPads are going well, but the Mac is suffering badly under Cook because it has such a low return. I hope he proves me wrong, but at this point I'm very worried about the future of the Mac.


This might have been a reasonable stance a year ago, but they just publicly committed to making new Mac Pros and monitors, plus they have already announced a $5k iMac Pro.

Tim Cook is no Steve Job, but Steve Jobs was no Tim Cook. They’re good at different thing, but Tim Cook will probably go down in history as one of the greatest CEOs of all time.


He's a good operator, but not a great visionary. I'm not sure whether we'll ever see a new ground breaking product again developed by Apple. Most of the stuff they've been doing since 2012 have been minor iterations on existing stuff.


I guess I take a pretty different view of technological progress. IMO, a lot of technological breakthrough is basically just waiting around until the underlying technologies are ready.

The original iPod was only possible because one of Apple's suppliers happened to make a 1.8" disk drive. iPhone and iPod were only possible because flash storage, batteries, screens, and mobile processors all got to a point where the original iPhone was (barely) viable as a product. Apple can't just will that the underlying technologies which will make autonomous cars or AR glasses possible come into existence now. They can nudge things a little here and there, but, for the most part, they have to wait just like everybody else.

Regarding Tim Cook: my take on Steve Jobs is that his most recognized success at Apple was creating the best products in the world. His collaborator for this was Jony Ive. But he had another accomplishment that is much less recognized: he put a tremendous amount of energy into building Apple the company. His collaborator for this was Tim Cook.

IMO, while Tim Cook may not be a product visionary, I think he is unrivaled as a business visionary. Calling him merely a "good" operator does the man a tremendous disservice. Nothing about the way Apple operates is typical. Their organizational structure is almost unheard of for a company of their size, they refresh almost their entire product portfolio every year, they release 3 new operating systems every year, they rarely make acquisitions, but when they do, it almost always works out. They have built an utterly dominating advantage in mobile processors. Etc, etc.


> IMO, while Tim Cook may not be a product visionary, I think he is unrivaled as a business visionary. Calling him merely a "good" operator does the man a tremendous disservice.

As I said elsewhere, this bothers me too. Cook is damn good at what he does, the problem is what he does is product delivery, not product development. The solitary new line they've launched since Job's passing was new sizes of iPhones and iPads, and the only entirely new product was the Watch, which arguably the first gen (Series 0 now) should never have left Cupertino. It wasn't ready, and I'm sorry but I think Jobs would've told them to take it back to the lab and make it GOOD before they released it.


I think people make way too much out of the fact that Apple doesn't have Steve Jobs anymore. Who cares? No other companies have Steve Jobs either. The real question is: are they better at every other company at conceiving of and making products? IMO they are.

Much hay is made out of the fact that version 1 of the watch wasn't 100% spot on. But again, that's fine. No company in the world is as good at Apple at iterating on products. So they iterated and the watch is a pretty great product now (and they sold a bunch of version 1 despite it's shortcomings).


"at conceiving of and making products" > I like my Apple products, but I would say they are not. They are merely good at improving them.

The watch, which has been the only product released since Jobs his passing (and I'm definitely not a Jobs fanboy) is.. garbage imo. I'll take my mechanical watch any day of the week, thanks.


You’re entitled to your opinion, but:

1) Lots of people are buying them.

2) They have incredible customer satisfaction numbers. Higher than any other Apple product, I believe.


You may want to take another look. The first Watch was garbage; the Series 2 and 3 are actually pretty impressive.


At least all the minor iteration results in products that work rather than broken piles of unicorn shit.


2012 wasn't that long ago, and it's not clear if any ground breaking products have really captured the imagination of the public in the last 5 years.


But he didn't fire Jony Ive


Maybe not, Jobs was a visionary, just look at how the iPhone has changed the world. But I think Apple has gotten big enough that so long as they can maintain their design and quality standards, they will be ok.


The key to understanding Apple is to listen to what they're saying.

They see the Mac like a truck. Yes, most people will buy cars, but we'll always need trucks too.

Further, best as I can tell, Mac continues to grow, both fraction of new sales and installed base.


Except their new truck isn't a workhorse, and that's the problem with it. I'm not saying EVERY Mac has to be a Macbook Pro. There are two product lines (Air, and the standard Macbook) that should be a little "softer" for the consumer level. The Macbook Pro though was always supposed to be a really powerful, well equipped workhorse, and switching to all USB-C for no other reason than thinness? That's totally fine for a Macbook, and totally irritating for a Macbook PRO.

Also, the gimmicky as hell trash can Pro with no meaningful upgradability was a slap in the face to anyone who loved the silver full tower BEASTS that preceded it. We STILL have some of those in service than were manufactured in 2008.


I love usb-c. It’s extremely convenient when travelling to only have to take one charger and a usb switch for all 4 devices.

I also find it far more convenient when working. One usb-c plug to plug into my entire work desk (monitor, backup hard drive, power, various chargers and connector cables).

Perhaps you haven’t invested in a decent usb-c switch? Only upsides for me so far.


This is my experience too. I bought one of those adapters that has VGA, HDMI, USB-A, and whatnot and I think I've used it a total of 1 time. Everything else I've bought is USB-C, if it exists, and I just use a USB-C to USB-A cable for any devices that aren't. My hub is USB-C and I even have a USB-C KVM switch that works great. No downsides for me either.


Then buy a different truck. Or roll your own hackintosh.


You're missing my point, I feel like intentionally but I'll explain either way:

By having both consumer-oriented and pro-oriented hardware, Apple makes the most of the (admittedly limited) Mac marketplace. Plus, the simple fact is you cannot hackintosh a PC that would be equivalent to even a late 2012 Macbook Pro in terms of reliability, battery life and portability.


Apple has definitely lacked vision since Jobs left, it has been the biggest issue in my opinion for them as a company. Cook has a lot of very valuable skills, but I've still found myself wondering, "What the what is going on at Apple!!..." (In a negative way)


Someone there has some kind of vision, doesn't mean it's a good one but there was a definite attempt to shove most MBP customers into using iPad Pro and the Mac Pro line probably only survived by a very slim margin.

It's pretty obvious the iMac Pro was supposed to replace the Mac Pro lineup (despite having all the same problems) then at the last minute they decided to start working on a New New Mac Pro.

Not sure who has this vision if it's Tim, Ive or someone else but whoever it is they don't respect the idea of an actual computer like Jobs did. From what has been reported Cook doesn't even use a laptop anymore.


At this point? The Mac has not been one of their main products for almost a decade.


I don't disagree, but there was a definite tonal shift in how it was handled shortly after Cook took over. Jobs seemed to recognize that the Mac was a tool used by their pro/developer userbase that helped make not only the App Store the envy of Google and Microsoft in terms of the variety and quality of the software available, but as a big draw for the deep-pocketed developer community as a whole. Cook doesn't seem to get that, a problem that was on flagrant display when they unveiled the Macbook Pro last year, with a gimmicky input mechanism no one wanted, and no first-party displays to go with it.

In other words: It was a niche product and always has been, but that niche has played a large role in the success of iOS. It should be one of Apple's primary concerns to keep them happy.


I think we agree here on the importance of the Mac.

I don't know how real the difference between Jobs and Cook is regarding the product line. They worked together for a long time and what you're saying seems like the romantic apple media. True to a degree probably though.


Jobs had the vision, Cook had the business smarts to make it happen. Since Jobs passing, Apple has frequently felt like a rudderless ship. Cook is a great manager and a great businessman, no doubt at all, but he doesn't have the passion Jobs had and it shows.


Pretty much, Jobs thoughts on sales/marketing people driving companies more relevant than ever

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-AxZofbMGpM


You mean the platform where iOS development happens? I beg to differ. Just because iPhone, maybe the biggest consumer phenomenon the world has ever known, is bigger than the Mac, does not mean the Mac is not one of their "main products".

10 years ago is when Apple started to neglect the Mac Pro, and the Mac Mini is embarrassing, but the rest of the line has been doing great in sales and attention from Apple save a few missteps here and there.


> and the Mac Mini is embarrassing

Embarrassing is an understatement, I'd say it's overtly consumer hostile https://d2w9rnfcy7mm78.cloudfront.net/1000779/large_7cbe8b3f... 2012 Mac Mini on the left; 2014 Mac Mini on the right. The unscrewable bottom was one of the championed features when this design initially launched


The sales numbers compared to their main products is tiny.

> You mean the platform where iOS development happens?

Yes, that one. I doubt "iOS developers" can keep Apple alive.


> The sales numbers compared to their main products is tiny.

In q3, mac sales represented ~12% of revenue which is greater than the iPads ~11%. I wouldn't exactly call it tiny.


Yes, and it is also important to remember that "tiny", when referring to an Apple product line, means "if it were a freestanding company, it would be in the F500".


They're also very expensive products. I'd look at numbers sold over 5 years.

And yes, I guess tiny is not a good word, still very small.


Mobile phones aren't for life. Parent can change company again whenever they like. This is really irrelevant at best.

(Besides Apple's CEOs tend to last a long time. 14 years with Jobs at the helm for example, and 6+ years with Cook and counting).


Apple has deep seated values throughout the organization that it's been nurturing for 40 years.

I think a mismatched CEO would either lose fighting it, or destroy the core of what makes Apple great, which shareholders will not like.


As long as the company can show the shareholders that differentiating on privacy provides good ROI, they will be happy.


There doesn't have to be a good ROI. Quoting Tim Cook: "When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind, I don't consider the bloody ROI. [..] If you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock."

https://www.macobserver.com/tmo/article/tim-cook-soundly-rej...


Maybe. Curious to what "at worst" would be...

For the record I'm not saying they are taking this stance for some charitable reason, I'm saying it would/could make financial sense for them, especially considering their branding as a premium product.


As a longtime Android fanboy who was actually waiting for the upcoming Pixels, I am tempted to switch over. I'm losing faith in Google's good faith, and want to reward / support companies that take my privacy at least semi-seriously.


With no snark whatsoever, though this question I realize implies it but I'll try my best to not: What good will? Google wrote the book on directed advertising. I'm genuinely interested why this attitude pervades Google's user base, that the Internet giant with 80% of the smartphone market is some kind of 'scrappy underdog' compared to Apple.


I can only answer for myself: I have a decent amount of faith in Googles ability to effectively advertise to me in a non-obtrusive manner, while treating my data responsibly.

Taking it one level of abstraction up, I don't see a future where using your data for efficient targeting of advertising isn't happening (and I don't consider that an obviously bad thing), and I consider Google a net positive force in shaping a responsible way of doing that.


While I'm nowhere near your position, I've been entertaining similar notions. Could you elaborate a bit on your views on this?


Not sure what you are after, exactly? They have the means and the motive to do this well, and as far as I can tell, they have been successful at it; I don't think they have suffered any significant breach of privacy.


Android was an underdog for years as iPhones rewrote the industry from top to bottom, killing Blackberry, Nokia, Windows Phone. It took years of intense focus to bring Android to parity, and lucky for Google, there are a few areas where Apple is weak...

Apple is underdog in services. To this day Apple Maps is a pale shadow of Google Maps. They're getting better to be sure, but still an underdog.


I imagine the only reason Apple Maps is worse than Google Maps is because the community around Google Maps has been updating it consistently for over a decade.

Apple maps transit experience is, in my opinion, much more carefully though out than Google's, so I know they can do something with the right information.


Apple Maps had a rough start, but people forget Google Maps wasn't always perfect either.

It would be nice if Apple users had the ability to submit corrections to Apple somehow.


You can. Not while turn-by-turn is active (presumably because Apple doesn't want to distract drivers), but outside of that, hit the (i) button and "Report an Issue" is an option.

What's neat about this is if you report a map error and they correct it, you actually get a push notification telling you that it's been fixed.


No kidding? I'll have to try this, thanks.


There is a lot of value in open sourcing the product. Yes there are proprietary pieces of Android, but overall it's mostly open. Contrast with Apple who closes everything and makes it difficult for a user to get at their own hardware. RMS is pretty out there on a lot of things, but he's right about the need for open products.


In terms of higher value userbase who still are willing to pay for apps and not easily able to pirate an app, Apple is still way ahead, this makes them far more desirable for app creators than Android does


Same here - but I would like more info on the subject to allow for a qualified decision. iPhones are very expensive.

Isn't basically all your data, everything you type being sent to Apple?


No. And when data is send to Apple, they go to great lengths to A) anonymize it, and B) not store it.


or C) (at least in regards to unlocking devices) encrypt it so even they can't retrieve it.


> Isn't basically all your data, everything you type being sent to Apple?

No. And I have looked.

Apple is very up front about the features that do and don't talk to the mothership. It has been a while, but I recall that as you go through the setup process, there's always info available telling you when they'll see your info, and more info online. But it tends to be pretty obvious - Apple has slurped up sensitive data before[1], but it did look like an accident, they fixed it, and were forthcoming about what happened.

They're very clear that security related stuff (Secure Enclave - the thumbprint/faceprint data) never leaves the device.

Things I know that talk back:

- App store (obviously, and they care about analytics) - News app (ditto, it is basically a thin web browser) - iCloud (ditto, clearly, and pay attention to the various modes for encryption: IIRC, you need 2FA enabled for the encryption key to not be recoverable on their end. But you should double check for yourself, I don't use iCloud, so I haven't paid attention.)

And looking at my phone on my local net with Wireshark, I also see some chatter that looks like things saving config information, similar to what you see on a Mac. I'm guessing this is them just not being careful - they want everyone backing up to iCloud, and even though I don't, various daemons keep nattering. I block all that stuff when on wifi (both Mac and iOS), with zero problems.

On iOS, you mainly need to be concerned with third-party apps. Some of them build in shady libraries for adtech shitheads, do stupid things with analytic/instrumentation libs, etc. The ecosystem seems less bad than Android, at least.

As close to a bottom line as I can come: turn off cloud backup and the syncing crap, use 2FA, don't download sketchy free games that ship your data to some guy in Romania, and you're leaking significantly less than on Android. Take more precautions (a content filter/ad blocker more aggressive than the defaults, disable wifi and bluetooth to avoid snoops along wherever you go, run your own mail/calendaring, etc.) and you're in pretty good shape, relatively speaking, and depending on your threat model.

[1] IIRC, location data was being logged such that it ended up being sent back in crash reports.


I can find no reference to this, and I've not heard anything about this happening in the past.

Issues with iOS include:

* iCloud not encrypting data securely serverside (i.e. they can potentially get at the data). You can avoid this by not using iCloud. * They have Ads in app, and now in the Appstore directly. Potentially this changes the dynamic, between user/advertiser in a negative way.

There are probably other issues... but I'm not currently aware of them. Overall it still seems like the best option from a privacy perspective.


I don't think first item is true especially if you have 2-step verification enabled. They explicit say that if you lose your auth token, they can't do nothing.

When I didn't used 2-step, I forgot my password, called them and they reset it for me (I had to confirm my identity providing them a code sent to my mac).


I think "can't" is "wont" in this case. Apple law enforcement guidelines state:

"All iCloud content data stored by Apple is encrypted at the location of the server. When third-party vendors are used to store data, Apple never gives them the keys. Apple retains the encryption keys in its U.S. data centers."

and

"iCloud content may include email, stored photos, documents, contacts, calendars, bookmarks, Safari browsing history and iOS device backups. iOS device backups may include photos and videos in the Camera Roll, device settings, app data, iMessage, SMS, and MMS messages and voicemail. All iCloud content data stored by Apple is encrypted at the location of the server. When third-party vendors are used to store data, Apple never gives them the keys. Apple retains the encryption keys in its U.S. data centres. iCloud content, as it exists in the subscriber’s account, may be provided in response to a search warrant issued upon a showing of probable cause."

So in short, Apple retains encryption keys for much of the data (including iOS backups), and will provide decrypted data to US law enforcement on request.

https://www.apple.com/legal/privacy/law-enforcement-guidelin...


iCloud security overview: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202303


Hmm that page is pretty unclear. Because while it says the data is encrypted serverside. What it doesn't say is which data is encrypted with a key that Apple has access to.

Much of the data listed as encrypted on server is available to US law enforcement under warrant.

It would be nice, to have an option available where data is encrypted on server, with your key. But that would mean you couldn't recover your data if you lost your key of course (and I think Apple consider that a poor user experience, or are under pressure not to do that...).


As I'm a small phone fan (the Samsung Alpha was a bit too big!), the iPhone SE will definitely be my next one. It has the guts of the 6s, and is 519 EUR with 128GB storage, which is far less than the slightly-too-big 6s (or other 4.7" successors)


I'm glad to hear that I'm not the only small phone fan. My new job is asking me to get a new/other phone for work purposes...and while I've always been a fan of android (not especially religious fan, simply a mild fan)...any recent phones which have decent functionality are immense in size. The only phone that I find that is a great balance of size and functionality seems to be the iphone SE. That fact alone was putting me on the fence as to whether i would stay with android - for this new/other work phone - or if I'd take the plunge to the apple side. Well, now reading this privacy piece, i'm leaning a bit more to the apple side. And, it is nice to hear that there are other folks out there who like small phones...i mean, i certainly don't want to walk around with a phone nearly the size of a freakin' tablet! :-)


If you haven't already you might want to look into Sony phones, they've made good smaller phones in the past. I don't know if they've got anything new out but I've got an Xperia Z5 Compact and it has always been quite capable of doing whatever I want it to do.


It's 100% opt-in. Yes, you can have all of your photos, notes, bookmarks, etc. synced to iCloud in which case Apple can see the data and provide it to 3rd parties either knowingly (law enforcement agencies) or unknowingly (the fappening). However, you can turn all of the syncing off and none of that data ever leaves your phone and it stays encrypted using your device passcode. Other than the lack of automatic syncing to other Apple devices, there's not really any loss in usability if you disable iCloud.


That is not true. iCloud Backups are encrypted using the device's PIN. The only data that Apple would be able to provide is SMS data because that is not encrypted when it's sent and it's not encrypted when it's backed up.


I didn't say anything about backups because I'm not sure of their current state, but last I saw they are encrypted at rest with keys Apple controls, same as nearly all the rest of your data. Apple's website would indicate that's still the case as well.

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT202303


How do you figure that that's what their website indicates? The site you linked says that backups are encrypted in transit and on the server and they specifically say that the encryption is end-to-end so "only you can access your information, and only on devices where you’re signed in to iCloud. No one else, not even Apple, can access end-to-end encrypted information." That's quoted right from the page you posted.


If you carefully read the sentence before your quote, it says, "For certain sensitive information, Apple uses end-to-end encryption." (Emphasis added.) Then scroll down to the "End-to-end encrypted data" section where it lists the data that is actually end-to-end encrypted. iCloud Backups are not listed there.

AFAIK iCloud backups are not end-to-end encrypted. I believe this past February Tim Cook, or someone else at Apple, was indicating that they were working on changing that. (It was coming up because everyone was wishing the San Bernardino shooter's phone had been backing up to iCloud, so they wouldn't need to get in the phone, they could just access the iCloud backups—IIRC.)


That's fine. That would be better, obviously, but backups are still encrypted in transit and on the server. There's no way for someone to download and decrypt those backups without access to a device that's signed in to iCloud and, as has been said repeatedly on here, if someone has physical access to the device, there shouldn't be an expectation of security.


They can decrypt, and provide access to law enforcement (and do under warrant):

https://www.apple.com/legal/privacy/law-enforcement-guidelin...


A device pin contains nowhere near enough entropy to be useful for strong encryption. One would hope it’s encrypted with a key derived from the iCloud password.


And when you change your pin, how is it decrypted ?


Don't use the PIN as key, but something long and random, and encrypt it with the PIN. When you change the PIN, you only have to re-encrypt the key.



If you factor in resale value, iPhones aren't as expensive as they might appear.


Searching phone and on computer ("Spotlight") BY DEFAULT sends that data to Apple and third parties

https://www.macrumors.com/2014/10/20/apple-spotlight-suggest...

see also

http://bgr.com/2015/04/01/iphone-location-tracking-map/

I recommend don't trust Apple. It's not your code, it's not your hardware.


> Searching phone and on computer ("Spotlight") BY DEFAULT sends that data to Apple and third parties

So turn off Spotlight Suggestions? Obviously if you're searching the web there will be traffic to the search engines.

> http://bgr.com/2015/04/01/iphone-location-tracking-map/

Frequent Locations is on-device only.


My point was that Spotlight search is on by default, that's what I took issue with.

It may be on-device only but it's not clear to the end-user that it's happening at all. No visible setting to disable it and vulnerable to malware.


Is your iPhone more secure than an open source version?


Compared to what we have currently out in open-source that easily runs on hardware the answer is yes. Google's Android is trying, but it's just not there yet, and it's not full Open Source. The rest of the open-source phone platforms are all dead as far as I'm aware.


Apple has a proven track record of respecting user privacy, Google has hardly any. iOS has a proven track record of respecting user privacy, Android has hardly any. Other 'open-source' alternatives shouldn't be considered generally viable at the moment.


Define your security model. If you are talking about advertisers, then both can achieve about the same "security" level. But there's no point talking about security (as remotely inaccessible) while we don't have an open hardware + firmware. Baseband is a "micro PC", some even run modified Linux kernel under the hood, WiFi chip, battery controller etc. -- all are capable of running spyware/malware too.


Judging by the amount of malware that shows up in the Play store and pwns rooted phones, absolutely.


AFAIK there's no such thing as a completely open source cell phone.


Unfortunately not. Even if there was, it's the mesh network they run on that breaks security - corporate & gov controlled cellular towers


> The pro privacy stance that Apple is taking is wonderful to see.

Yeah, it is. Welcome to what it feels like to be wholly the customer, instead of partially the product.


It cracks me up how much the hn userbase has changed. Apple has traditionally been very user hostile, but they make some grandstand PR move and so many people fall for it like Apple cares about user privacy/freedom, etc.

As Richard Stallman said, Apple puts the user in a prison. Just because the warden is getting better at playing nice some of the time and making the prison more beautiful doesn't change the fact it is a prison.

In a free system, the users could have done this themselves years ago instead of waiting for Apple.


Unless you're installing AOSP android on your phone, you're in the same boat with Google. You're increasingly limited to what Google will allow on the play store. You may have some more flexibility, but to continue your analogy: android is a like a low-security prison run by gangs you may have more freedom but at the end of the day you're still on the inside and now you run the risk of getting shanked.


!Apple !== AOSP/Google

With that said, the FSF endorses Replicant (which actually just had a new release and added more device support[0]). I use Replicant.

Given the free software philosophy, a free program is always superior to a non-free program, no matter how bad that free program is. But Replicant isn't bad; the most recent version is a fork of "the latest changes from LineageOS 13.0 ".[0]

What this emphasizes is the need for a fully free/libre mobile device, which has been the topic of other HN discussions.

[0]: https://blog.replicant.us/2017/09/a-new-replicant-6-0-releas...


> Given the free software philosophy, a free program is always superior to a non-free program, no matter how bad that free program is.

I never understood this opinion. If I need to navigate to drive to my grandmother's house, and none of the free nav software knows how to get there, but I have access to some proprietary software that will do the job, then why not use it?

I can stop using it at any time I want, no strings attached. I can also reason about its ability to perform actions that serve its creator's interests rather than mine (capture my data and send it to the mothership, mine bitcoins on their behalf, ...) and I can make rational decisions about whether the ability to find my way to grandma's house is worth the risk. Often, the math works out that I am better off occasionally using the proprietary software.


Your average user will be unable to make those "rational decisions" as they are often not made aware of the downsides. This is intentional


(Almost) All Android phones allow you to sideload apps without having to root, AFAIK. So you aren't really limited by the Play Store.


I have little idea about how the android market is. But when I had a rooted phone, the rooted market of apps/tweaks wasn't too impressive. I personally felt like iOS's jailbreak market was doing better even though it had dramatically shruken too. This is about 2 years ago.

So if the rooted tweaks and apps market isn't that strong for Android, how big would the side loading market be? I'm obviously thinking there's not much there. At least not for people where Google services and apps are included normally with Android like the US.


I'm curious, are there actually any Android phones at all that don't let you sideload?


> Unless you're installing AOSP android on your phone, you're in the same boat with Google. You're increasingly limited to what Google will allow on the play store.

I'm not aware of any android phone where you can't install whatever apk you like.


Could not disagree with you more. Google's own Pixel line is more controlled for the benefit of the user, in that the user ends up with a more unified and cohesive experience. OEM's readily make modifications to Android, and you can install a completely custom ROM as well. Finally, you can install applications by consuming third party APK's directly and bypassing the Play store entirely.

So no, your comparison of iOS to Android does not apply 1:1.


> and so many people fall for it like Apple cares about user privacy/freedom, etc.

I don't care if you call it a "grandstand PR move". It detracts from what Apple has actually done. It was not a valueless statement of ideals. It's an actual piece of functionality that millions of people will have built into their smartphones.

Stallman sits around hypothesising about vague 'open systems' that—when fleshed out—are completely impractical for the average user. This does very little. You can all sit around installing AOSP (or some other lesser-known open-source mobile operating system) and write your own ML-powered cookie bucketing engines and pretend that this is a viable alternative, and that Apple hasn't done something objectively pretty cool and great.

Thee fact is, the Stallman philosophy is absolutely meaningless to the vast majority of end-users, and they are incapable of doing anything with it. What Apple has done is something that will help end users. It's a selling point, they might win some people over with it, boo hoo, there's no such thing as ethical consumption under capitalism. It still means a whole lot.


I think your comment downplays the importance of Stallman's work. Just because the vast majority of people do not use what he advocates, it doesn't mean he isn't having a significant impact on what they do use, indirectly. I think this is one example of a change that will affect people that happened probably in part because of people valuing rights that Stallman champions. It may not be him that directly influenced Apple, but he is a big part of influencing the bulk of opinion that did, so he has indirectly. It is not a case of one or the other.

It is like high art. Lots of people rarely look at modern art, but it doesn't mean it doesn't influence the design and pop-art they do see regularly, indirectly.

You are wrong to present behaving like Stallman and what Apple is doing as things that are competing alternatives, with things being in one camp or the other. Stallman's work influences the mainstream, so mainstream, less extreme, changes and what he does are not unconnected.


Stallman simply values other things than most users, as you correct point out.

You can view a castle as either a prison or a refuge, depending on your political inclinations. Apple has built a very robust castle -- whether that's a good or bad thing depends largely on your personal views. Stallman detests all castles; empirically, most people seem to find them comforting.


> Apple has traditionally been very user hostile

Here's an interview with Steve Jobs on privacy regarding location data:

https://youtu.be/39iKLwlUqBo?t=23s

Apple takes care of their users.


A rancher takes care of his cattle too — but they're not free to leave, and eventually he's going to slaughter them.

With Android, I can choose to load my own OS. With iOS, I cannot.


the fact that they care about privacy doesn't mean that they aren't user hostile


'user hostile' is too ambiguous to be useful.

I would argue that some of the perceived 'hostility' is a Necessary Evil® for improved UX elsewhere - specifically implementing DRM paved the way for Apple users to be able to "just buy/lease/get/download" lots of media (or actually licenses to media) very easily. I'm an Apple FanBoi though, so I am heavily biased because I really like their ecosystem.

Specifically about user privacy, Apple has a track record of being a decent advocate for user privacy. More publicly than I have been, that's for sure!


I agree. I think sentiment changed on HN when they apparently resisted the FBI.

But the company who does:

http://bgr.com/2015/04/01/iphone-location-tracking-map/

https://www.macrumors.com/2014/10/20/apple-spotlight-suggest...

... no thanks.


> http://bgr.com/2015/04/01/iphone-location-tracking-map/

That's had a toggle in Settings for several years. Also "Significant Locations are encrypted and cannot be read by Apple."


A prison you can choose to enter and leave at will? This is either excessive hyperbole or Stallman has no idea of what a prison is.


What about the term "jailbreak"?

The problem is also vendor lockin and customer loyalty (often times because people don't like change). You can leave, but most users won't or don't want to.


I'd say that vendor lock-in is unrelated; any platform can have it regardless of the openness of the platform.

Jailbreaking is not part of the lock-in. It's a way of doing more stuff with the hardware than the original software allowed you to do. The fact that the term has 'jail' in it doesn't make the users more locked in than they already were, they were free to enter and leave without jailbreaks.

Tangentially, I used to jailbreak my iphone because it offered me useful extra features that I couldn't otherwise get (e.g. a SSH client back when Apple didn't have such apps). But I haven't felt the need to jailbreak iOS for years now, because just about everything I could want to do with the system is already possible.

Finally, 'jailbreaking' is effectively another word for 'security hole'. If my iOS device can be jailbroken, it's actually a worry to me, not a benefit.

Google's chromebooks do offer a better alternative to this, whereby you can flush out ChromeOS by making a physical change to your device (in my case, disassembling the laptop and turning a particular screw). But it still can be a security risk; if there was some physical means of replacing iOS on a phone with alternative software, you could never trust that a secondhand iPhone hadn't been maliciously tweaked to preload malware.


> Jailbreaking is not part of the lock-in. It's a way of doing more stuff with the hardware than the original software allowed you to do.

That's precisely what rms is referring to when he says "jail":

https://www.gnu.org/proprietary/malware-apple.html#jails

"allowed you to do" is the key phrase in your sentence---software should never tell you that you can't do something just because its developers don't want you to do so (we call that an "anti-feature"); software should be a tool to serve the user, not hold their computer/device hostage to exert control over them.


That link is really terrible and GNU should be embarrassed to be publishing something like that. Referring to people as "iMonsters" and the general tone of that page make it seem very childish. Some of those points are even worth discussion but it over-simplifies them to the point of being worthless and easily dismissible. That's a real shame.


It's a prison because they make it so enjoyable most people don't want to leave?


Jailbreak is a viral marketing term, and says very little about the actual situation. Is that really the leg you want to stand on?


The term "jailbreak" was coined by the users that broke into the first iPod/iPhone firmware, not Apple. The file with the key was called "lockdown.d" (or something of that nature) and so exposing the locked-down area was colloquially referred to as a "jailbreak".


And most users would never take advantage of a truly open platform phone. Maybe it's a prison, but it's a prison that might as well not even exist for most people because they'll never even see the walls.


If they don't want to, what's the problem? It's more of a hotel than a prison.


If he had made an analogy with a luxury resort, the argument isn't nearly as compelling.


I have seen no one doing as much as Apple for privacy along with a good user experience (though it might look restrictive to those coming from Android or desktop PC backgrounds). I'm willing to trade off a little bit of convenience for better privacy preservation. Many security researchers have stated that the desktop philosophy of letting any program run, access any resource it wants, etc., is outdated and harmful to users in the mobile era. That's one of the areas Apple's start with a restricted system that slowly expands to fulfill needs in a better way comes from.

If the users "could have done it themselves", we should have proof that someone did it in a way most people could use it. Where's such a system? Which mass market usable mobile OS does not put users in a prison? If the choices are between one that puts the user in a prison but protects the user better vs. another that doesn't, the decision for those who value this and can afford such a device is quite clear.


> I have seen no one doing as much as Apple for privacy along with a good user experience

Uh... Mozilla.


Sorry, I missed stating the context of my comment explicitly, which was around smartphones.

Mozilla, of course, is a great organization on this front. I've said that in comments here in the past, and am an unofficial Firefox evangelist.


You are conflating two concepts here. From what ever we see Apple has been really clear and focused on user privacy and security. They back up their words with actions and improve on them over time.

Also if a free system lets users do it themselves why are we talking about Apple being a better option for security and privacy over google?


> Apple has traditionally been very user hostile

What Apple are you talking about? The one I know has always held customer satisfaction as sacred. They've been fairly developer-hostile, but extremely user-friendly. They're literally famous for being user-friendly.


I never bought into Google/Android. I strongly preferred Java and Android over Obj-C and iOS, but I'd already seen the market fragmentation caused by clones (Windows OEMs), and had a pretty good hunch how it'd play out. I was right.


Can you care to point where Apple was user hostile from a privacy point of view?

It can be arguable why Apple limited the user iPhone wise. Actually, limiting the user not only affected performance but also privacy since Apps are jailed and can't easily "hack" your phone/data.

It be great to differentiate between two guys: 1. Who cares about freedom and performance and 2. Who cares about freedom only. I'd like to think that Apple is number 1. They care about freedom as long as it doesn't affect the performance vector.


> In a free system, the users could have done this themselves years ago instead of waiting for Apple.

Could they?

I was dimly aware of third-party cookies and enabled options to block them. Kind of made sense, but only because a big fuss was already being made.

These new tricks for fooling the browser into thinking third party cookies are first party? I wasn't aware of them at all. NB: I'm kind of an HN addict.

Are there any free-software browsers addressing this issue at all? Ones that ship by default with KDE, etc. at least?


And that fact would have any relevance at all, if there was a viable, free alternative to iOS and Android. For what is the Status Quo in the mobile market, Apple is doing well.

Even Custom Android ROMs have inherent design flaws, because it's been ultimately designed by Google and certain things just can't be changed without Google playing along (or breaking compatibility with the app ecosystem).


More information on the FSF's position: https://www.gnu.org/proprietary/malware-apple.html

And rms' perspective: https://stallman.org/apple.html


The average user has no ability to do this, nor the will or want to.


That's OUR FAULT as programmers. We need to improve product design of open source software to make it accessible, easy to use and secure.


So do what Apple has done, except for the first part about which only programmers care?


That's not an excuse to prevent every user from doing it IMO.


People quoting Stallman have very little knowledge about the users.


Yes, this benefits Apple customers. I'm pleased.

But it also attacks the revenue of the other 3 horsemen (Google, Facebook, Amazon). Which also pleases me.

If I was Apple, I'd mess with advertising, just because.


Apple knows this; in fact, I'd say it's their core business strategy. They did this before with the iTunes Music Store, and they will continue doing it as long as they exist.

Apple focuses on the mass consumer as their sole and perpetual customer. This allows them to maintain laser focus on solving the problems of the end users rather than solving the problems of an advertiser and forcing the solution on end users.

Apple's refusal to "innovate" on its business model has actually put them where they are today. Most other tech companies have other motives in making mobile devices: Amazon wants to sell you content, Facebook and Google want to show you ads, while Apple just wants to make the best damn phone out there and sell it at a very high price.

If the market definition of "best damn phone out there" starts to include "protects your privacy", Apple doesn't have the conflicts of interest that Google or Facebook do. I'm sure everyone else will eventually follow suit, but Apple is the only one with the capability to take the lead on privacy.


Oh spare me. Apple is waaay in bed with rightsholders when it comes to DRM. It's all wine and roses as long as you're 100% bought in to their ecosystem. Try playing your iTunes purchase on a non-Apple product and you're SOL. I fail to see how this solves "the problems of the end users."


> Try playing your iTunes purchase on a non-Apple product and you're SOL

What are you talking about? Did iTunes add back DRM? Around 2009 or so Apple made all of iTunes DRM-free and were, I believe, the first major online music store to do so. It was a huge deal; Apple published an open letter from Jobs on their home page and everything.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/07/technology/companies/07app...

"iTunes Plus refers to songs and some music videos* in high-quality AAC format that don't have Digital Rights Management (DRM). All songs now for sale in the iTunes Store are iTunes Plus."

https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201616

and, as of 2014, you could kill DRM on DRM-ed iTunes purchases made before 2009 https://www.wired.com/2014/03/kill-itunes-drm/


Movies are still generally protected with DRM. Do you know if you can play iTunes movies with a third party player (like VLC).


Who sells DRM free movies?


gog.com

Plus, not all DRM schemes are equal. One that is exclusive to Apple is worse (IMHO) than one that isn't. For example, I can go to a store and buy a DVD or BluRay disk that has DRM yet I am very sure that I can play it on every player I own.


As big of a fan of gog as I am and as much as I dislike itunes I think it's pretty disingenuous to compare their movie store to itunes. They have 56 movies on their store and I don't think any of them could be considered mainstream.


Oh I agree with you.

I was originally responding to the person that said the iTunes store doesn't sell DRM'd stuff. The movies definitely are but I don't know if the DRM restricts the movie to being played on an Apple device or if it uses some non-Apple DRM making it playable elsewhere.


You have it backwards. The rights holders forced the DRM requirements on Apple - Apple never sought it out.


Even at risk of adding unnecessary comments, I feel compelled to tell you that this is the most insightful comment I have read all week.


My response to this is: But they DON'T make the best damn phone out there. They DO sell it at a very high price. Samsung phones are light years ahead on features and being the best damn phone out there.


I'd have to agree their hardware and software is lacking tremendously for tech users looking to use their phone exactly as they wish. This really isn't true for 99% of their userbase however. That being the case their ecosystem is very secure and their app store is slightly less of a dumpster fire than google play.

Ultimately if you have the money for a premium phone and just need it to make phone calls, browse the web etc (the basics) then the iPhone really is the best option as it's more secure at the moment.

The place where the iPhone doesn't sell to someone like me is the hand holding babysitting it does preventing you from manipulating the device as I wish. Again this is a non-issue to them.

It can be frustrating to see someone overpaying for what you consider an inferior product but they're not using it like you are.


If I want to manipulate a device, I'll buy a raspberry pi. My phone isn't a playtoy; it's something I need to just work transparently.

Really though; there's very little you can't do with an iPhone as long as you're willing to pay $99/yr and write some code...


I think this is true to some extent - they do suit many users more than more flexible, but as a result more complicated, Android - but the iOS ecosystem is more restrictive than it needs to be, and more restrictive than is ideal, for many more than 1% of users.

Personally, I think more than 50% of users would benefit for more flexibility than iOS offers, even at the cost of less ease of use. I don't think it has to cost that much ease of use though. I think the ideal for most people is somewhere in between Android and iOS, but probably closer to Android. Android is not that hard to use. It is also not impossible to have a highly curated app store like Apple's, and allow apps from other sources at the same time of people want to install them. Ideally we'd have more diversity in OS implementations I think, based on one or a small number of actual OSs. Android based OSs that are more heavily modified to be easier to use etc. This would be easier I think if phones were more like PCs in that you could install your own OS and get the drivers for your hardware. I think Android is somewhat moving in that direction so there is hope for that in future.


Phones are very much unlike PCs in a lot of important ways.

First, is that phone users value weight and size above all else. Regardless of what that means to each individual user, it does mean that any design compromises will need to come out favorably for weight/size considerations. Modular phones have been released, but they largely failed because they provided very little benefit for the added weight/size. Phones absolutely must be integrated devices as a result (i.e. no modular components, making them impossible to repair).

Second is that because of the above, basically every chip in a phone is a custom SoC. So not only do you have to support many flavors of devices, you also have to support different flavors of SoCs, often used in different ways in different devices. This isn't insurmountable with the right driver repository structure, but good luck getting vendors to update those drivers.

Third, I don't exactly know what benefits a less restrictive OS ecosystem would provide. Apple's App Store rules are not insane (there are so many bad actors out there, the curation is a huge benefit to users); and if you ever want to run programs that aren't "blessed" by Apple, you can buy a $99 developer license, sign the binaries yourself and sideload them through XCode. Could it be easier? Sure, it could. But it's realistically an edge case, and Apple is focused on the main use cases.


This is somewhat subjective and misses the point that hardware isn't the only determining factor. If I was on the fence about which platform I wanted, the one with better privacy and a more secure app store is appealing.


Samsung phones does have a lot more features. But iPhone is generally more polished and well thought out for general use cases imo. But "best" is highly subjective. Objectively, iPhones have faster processors and likely smoother animations overall, while Android is more flexibile.


Could you elaborate or give some links on the better features of Samsung phones compared to (equivalent) Apple phones? I'm honestly curious, because I haven't bothered looking outside the Apple ecosystem but last time around my experience was really good, until around the iPhone 5S (I went for the Nexus 4, I think).


That was my first (very pleased!) read on it at first but this snippet towards the end:

> "When you visit a site, any cookies that are set can be used in a third-party context for twenty-four hours. During the first twenty-four hours the third-party cookies can be used to track the user, but afterward can only be used to login and not to track. This means that sites that you visit regularly are not significantly affected. The companies this will hit hardest are ad companies unconnected with any major publisher."

Since the average internet user (aka not us) visits Facebook constantly and Google regularly, will this really have an impact at all?


The "unconnected with any major publisher." part is the major one. I would say this likely doesn't affect Google and Facebook much (it might affect Facebook greatly for me, since I use the site once every couple weeks). Who it does affect is shadier third party ad networks which have less well defined privacy policies. It also affects any fully legitimate and non-shady advertiser that doesn't have a web presence you want to visit regularly. So in that respect it punishes all the non-Google and non-Facebooks equally, which may or may not be a good thing.

Google and Facebook may know too much about you, but I'm not really worried about them selling that data, which is some small relief. They are the ferryman at the river, and they charge to take advertisers to their audiences. They aren't in the business of selling boats.


> Google and Facebook may know too much about you, but I'm not really worried about them selling that data, which is some small relief.

Why aren't you worried about that? How about in 15 years when they've gone downhill and are looking for ways to make some quick cash?


Like I said, a small relief. To clarify, I'm not worried about them selling the data now, and I have hopes that there will be some headway made on the issue legislatively prior to them running into problems. It's not a good situation, but it's better than joe-schmoe-adtech right now offering to target me for $X, and outright sell all that info for Y x $X because they need to raise some cash fast.

If we don't make headway on this issue legislatively and soon, I'm not sure it matters, as your profile information's privacy at all these sites has a shelf life in my eyes. Both sales and security breaches with exfiltration of data at random adtech companies will eventually lead to most this private profile data being publicly available anyway, so unless we put some strong limits on what can be collected, how it must be stored, notification of who is storing it, and the ability to review and remove items (and all of this at a minimum), I think it's a moot point who has it now, since everyone will eventually.


I would think the average user visits Facebook through the Facebook app, not through Safari, so that should very much affect them. Google is a different story...


Not on desktop, however. Safari for macOS is introducing the same functionality


Right, but isn't that the point that now they can't track you across sessions based on logins and things of that nature. If I use the app on my phone, they can't check my browser history against that and, on the Mac, they can keep my login information but they can't track me across sites. Seems like a win-win for users on both ends.


Right, no real effect for most users and ad publishers. Apple didn't really do much here.


On mobile Apple removed IDFA (can be reset), UUID and mac address tracking. They are pushing hard to remove a way to tell if your mobile ads convert. On web apps, yes, removing third party tracking is also helps to remove any kind of accountability within your ad spends. This basically promotes dumb ad spends: you spend money without knowing if you get anyone to convert. This doesn't hurt google,facebook, et al, it actually helps them. Dumb money advertising is their bread and butter. (Pay per click / impression)


Curious, how does this impact Amazon?


I'm not 100% sure, but I think it's going to close the window available for them to retarget you with ads. I'm talking about the annoying practice of noticing that you searched for headphones on Amazon then you start seeing ads for headphones everywhere you surf.


Retargeting by brands/products who then sell via Amazon? (although if they're spending money on a sophisticated ad tactic i'd be surprised if they don't have their own site/store from which to sell)


Browsers are really where privacy needs to come from.

I know a lot of people have hopes for a legislative solutions, but I think the EU (also UK and others) "cookie law" really needs to make us consider how effective they can be. The motivation for the law was good. They put their finger in the right place. . We got nag screens and little improvment in privacy.

Not every piece of privacy legislation does as little as this, but I still think we need to be wary. Browsers, OTOH, are in a great position to improve user privacy.

Maybe instead of letters to parliamentarians, letters to browser makers?


The biggest browser maker is funded by advertising revenue.

I recommend watching the film "Democracy"[1], which showed how an EU data protection law went through the process to become law. The "main character" (chair of the process) was a German MEP. The thing I best remember him saying[2] was in response to some lobbyists, who wanted to know why he was pushing back against their business interests when they were all united. The MEP said he primarily represented the thousands of people in his constituency, even though they couldn't afford to send lobbyists to Brussels.

With some stronger wording ("This site shares your data, including the web pages you view and where you click, with the following companies: Google, AdNetwork234, ..., These companies use it to sell advertising to you and may further share your data") the cookie law could have been stronger.

The MEP was in the Green party, but most aren't -- pressure from individuals on other MEPs would encourage other, more business-friendly MEPs, to push back against the lobbyists.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/nov/14/democracy...

[2] I think it was in the film, but I also went to a screening with him giving a talk afterwards.


We all just click through cookie popups, the specific text doesn't make any difference to 99% of users, if not more.

The only thing legislation like that does is make companies pay people like me a little more to implement popups that annoy their users.


We click through them now, because the message is techno-waffle, or boring: "This site uses cookies. Read our policy."

If, instead, it said "Every click you make on this site is recorded and sent to four unrelated companies" the public might just have taken a bit more notice.


I doubt it.

There are signs all over California telling you that the appliance you are going to buy might kill you and nobody cares. You think they are going to care that some unrelated company will find out what you are reading on Medium?


It also creates awareness as people who had no idea that cookies existed also receive such pop ups.


Ultimately it creates terrible trust signals. Users learn that 'professionally made sites have those cookie banner things. It's something to do with security or something', they assume that sites without them are more likely to be dodgy, and place false trust in sites which do implement a cookie warning.


That's a straw man argument, clueless people that stay clueless are hardly a downside.

However, these banners have also clearly caused millions of people to ask the question "What's a cookie" which leads some of them to start caring about this issue.


I’d argue it doesn’t do much of that either. No-one reads error messages, and certainly no-one ready cookie notices.


The EU GDPR[1] legislation actually looks good. It includes the right to access your data and the right to be forgotten. It remains to be seen how well it's implemented, but they've really gotten the basics right I think.

1: http://www.eugdpr.org/the-regulation.html


> We got nag screens and little improvment in privacy.

We definitely got the nag screens¹, but improvement?

[1] Which is totally inferior solution technically & ux-wise, because the user/client voluntarily accepts the cookie from the server, and there's already setting for that in the browser.


The nags are only mandated for tracking, cookies are only a implementation detail. The EU directive explicitly mentions that, does not even focus on cookies, and states that cookies (or whatever) pertaining to site operation (such as login/cart/whatever) do not require nagging. Thus the proper browser setting is DNT, not accepting cookies.

But everyone construed that cookies <=> nag, because nobody RTFM.


I don’t think it’s a RTFM thing. The lawyers RTFM, and this is what they came up with.

The legislation called for informed consent. Two core issues were left open to definition, in practice. [1] What requires informed consent? [2] What counts as informed consent.

For question 2, a standard answer (nag screen) emerged.

Question 1 is trickier. The cheapest & easiest solution is to just nag, so that’s the default. If you want to drop the nag screen you can deal with question 1, but most don’t bother. Either they want the tracking, they want the easiest option or they want legal CYA.

I think the legislative intentions were good, but this was a hard area to legislate. It didn’t work, IMO.


Browsers are really where privacy needs to come from.

There's only so much a browser can do against someone who can follow your IP address around. What we really need is ISPs who randomize what the server sees from their pool of IPs and NAT it internally.


Placing trust in your ISP isn't a good decision, even if they are mandated by law---there's always bad actors, violating the law might be worth it depending on the penalty, and there's law enforcement / government warrant/subpoena power.


That would remove any way that you had to run a server on your home machines - trade one freedom for another?


Static IP is already an optional extra on most UK ISPs, so most people would lose nothing


It's an optional extra just about anywhere, but most routers have dyndns or some equivalent built in these days, and besides your address changes so seldom that you can run a server for a small group by just telling them the new IP when it changes.


Well, it's a trade-off. Personally I just use cloud VM now and don't run a home server anymore (previously I had DynDNS and would SSH X11 tunnel into my IRIX box from outside).


Or a VPN. Then again, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Device_fingerprint and it's game over again.


browsers could prevent fingerprinting. They could randomize information enough so that they still have the important bits but cannot easily be tracked.


And then the ISP comes along and adds a super cookie to your traffic.

It's ISPs that worry me the most. They see all the places you connect to. Even if you use https, they still know the endpoints.


ISPs can't add cookies to encrypted traffic going into a VPN relay.


It is a war of escalation though. You can be tracked via 304 responses and etags, for example. Fixing those client side isn't really practical.


You don't need to prevent tracking completely. You just need to make it enough of a hassle so that it becomes too impractical or too expensive to do at scale.


> We got nag screens and little improvment in privacy.

We could have skipped the nag screens with DNT.


Was recently telling my dad about this. I might get an iPhone X just because of Apple's new stance on browsing privacy. I recently quit my ad-tech job and what FB/Google does with tracking is incredibly sketchy.

Glad to see a large company with leverage fight back.


Good to hear! I have been summarily refusing ad-tech job offers (and boy, some of them were willing to pay big bucks).

The ethical concerns are staggering, and as it becomes harder to extract value it seems the ethics violations continue unbounded. People seem willing to do whatever it takes to keep their businesses (and most crucially, the jobs they cannot afford to lose) afloat. I suspect wage slavery is to blame for a lot of this.

It's anecdata, but not a single one of the people I know in media/advertising actually WANTS to be there, and all of them have serious concerns about the business practices. The #1 thing keeping them there in every case is "I need the money".

For those who have the luxury of choice I implore you: vote with your feet, switch jobs, and encourage others to do the same! I refuse to join a company unless I know its profits are tied directly to some mutual benefit for society.


> The #1 thing keeping them there in every case is "I need the money".

Basically, this was my situation. But I paid off my student loans and I have some money in the bank now so I have some leverage as I shop around for my next job.


I am actually super intrigued to hear about someone quitting ad-tech. Did you quit ad-tech because of moral/ethical concerns? What was your "wake up call"?


It wasn't so much a wake-up call, just a long-time simmer. When I first took the position, it wasn't in ad-tech, but our team slowly migrated to doing purely FB and Google ad automation.

I felt that not only was I underused technically, but also that my contribution was a net negative for society.


Why not an iPhone 6?


Don't know why people are downvoting this, but the 5C just got "obsoleted" so that could mean the 6 is right on the brink of update oblivion. So that could be a reason.


could be - but the question is so stupid - not worthy to actually reply.

In the light of such pretentious behaviour I have no idea why apple users have a reputation of being pragmatic and down2earth. </irony>


I'm an apple user, perhaps even a fan. I don't have a clue why your comment was downvoted. Is it a lot? Maybe it's a misclick.


just joking. nonetheless my question was serious.

I wouldn't like to pay more than €500 on a smartphone. And ...,iP6 < €500 < iP7,...

Actually I am a happy Android user. But I don't like too much of my data in one basket. Which is why I would consider iPhone for my next phone.

But the praise of iOS regarding privacy is rather new. So my question aims at whether I could expect also the privacy for older iPhones or if this is only coming with newer versions.

Of course data safety is in this case a result of an Apple policy - which would affect all products - but possibly older iPhones still send too much data to Apple.

F.x. let's assume a Catalonian opposition politician who's investigated by the Spanish police and a judge decides his data should be searched. With this warrant they contact Apple. Would apple now send all their data about the guy to the police - how much do they have?

That's another question I ponder besides ad tracking policies.


Well, the data sending is (AFAIK) about the OS, not the phone itself. So if did they made this policy change for iOS 11 [1] then all phones that run iOS 11 get it. And honestly, the 6 is probably fine. They stopped updated 5C and before because they were 32-bit phones. I expect 6 and on to keep getting security updates, etc. for a long time. At least I hope so because I had planned on staying with my 6 for as long as I can.

For your spanish case, I would refer to the case of the US terrorists: Apple prefered to pay a fine to the US government rather than unlocking it.

[1] I think they've always had this kind of policy, for the record.


"This question is an outrageous profanity!"


I wonder if Apple will make it easier to block tracking pixels in emails. I know they let you turn off remote image loading in total, but this is a pretty blunt instrument and makes many emails hard to read.

I would love if they came up with a smart solution that blocked all pixels, but didn't by default block substantive images. This is increasingly important as new email apps come out that offer consumers the ability to easily send emails with tracking pixels [1].

1: https://techcrunch.com/2017/08/18/rapportive-founders-new-st...


You can load images on an as-needed basis in mail. Generally, any email that is solely images and has no text is not going to be worth looking at.

I can't see how defining 'substantive' images could ever work. The other issue is that email clickable links are often unique and tracked, so images are unfortunately only part of the problem here.


>I can't see how defining 'substantive' images could ever work

You can't? Seems pretty straight forward, so long as you remember first and foremost that 100% accuracy is completely unnecessary. The "load all images" option can still be there, so all that's needed is a solution that's good enough to suffice the majority of the time and shape norms and standard-case. That leaves lot of low hanging fruit. To start with are basic heuristics like that there is no need in email for 1x1 or 2x2 or 3x3 or whatever pixel images, or images where the pixels are entirely set to transparent. A lot of tracking stuff, particularly mass scale efforts tied to multiple parties beyond the sender, is pretty blatantly content free for even a totally dumb static rule set. Slightly more smarts could be used to discriminate based on simple sender trust heuristics, such as whether the email is cryptographically signed, they're in your contacts book, whether you've ever replied or clicked through, etc. Finally this could be another area where, just as they did here with cookies, Apple applied some basic ML to answer the "likely substantive" question. Again, remember that failing here doesn't necessarily matter because it can still be an improvement over the status quo.


Sure, I agree that blocking pixel images and similar stuff like transparent images is an easy win, but the workaround for that would be for trackers to start supplying more substantive parts of the email appearance, such as company logos and so on.


Yeah, the question is what is the proportion of low-hanging fruit versus persistent actors. We didn't just give up on spam because "spammers will find a way around".

And if we can eliminate a bunch of low-hanging fruit (e.g., from consumers who don't care enough about tracking to put a trackable company logo image in their signature), that's better than nothing.


Just cache all images in apple's servers (even if the user doesn't open the mail) by default and tracking is useless.


The problem with detecting pixels is you generally have to load the image before you find out that it's only 1x1 or fully-transparent. And by then it's too late.

Apple could probably use ML to try and guess ahead of time whether a URL is a tracking pixel, but they have to load at least some of them first to be able to figure that out.


> I can't see how defining 'substantive' images could ever work.

See Superhuman. They're using tracking pixels with no related images or links.


If you download any image then that image can be used as a pixel image to track you.


They should just make not downloading external images the default and only option and remove the banner to manually download them, so people have to send the images as attachments and tracking is impossible.


Hopefully FireFox and-or IE will be the next to step up. I don't see Chrome stepping up until every other browser has.


Firefox, I doubt it. They love the ad money so biting the hand that feeds them is risky, never know who will feed them next and how much.

Microsoft might, even though Bing is profitable and in 2015 brought in ~ $1b a quarter https://techcrunch.com/2015/10/22/bing-is-profitable/ . Might be too much money for Microsoft to ruin it.

All Apple right I think, but if they wanted to hurt Google they could start a search engine, maybe by buying DDG.


As a browser vendor, yes, you have to try to not piss off advertisers, because if website owners don't make money off of your browser, they're not going to test against it much, but why would you list that reason specifically for Firefox? Firefox is the browser that's willing to bite advertisers' hands more than any other browser. They even ship effectively an ad blocker in Private Browsing.


DDG is not a search engine.


Can you elaborate? DuckDuckGo[1] sure looks like a search engine to me.

[1] https://duckduckgo.com/


OP probably means that DDG uses Bing search results to populate the index


Is it ice-cream? Dance Dance Gelato?


You may wish to visit this link:

https://www.theverge.com/2017/6/1/15726778/chrome-ad-blocker...

By the way, a friendly reminder that EFF is happy to take donations and there are a variety of ways to do so.


Blocking a few egregious ad types is not at all the same as the blocking of privacy-invading cookies as Apple is doing.

> The Chrome ad blocker doesn’t just help publishers, it also helps Google maintain its dominance. And it advantages Google’s own ad units, which, it’s safe to say, will not be in violation of the bad ad rules.

Don’t be evil, indeed.


Right, but it's a start - meaning they might eventually get there. It means there is pressure and that they may be obligated to take notice. It's not the end, it is the beginning.


> Right, but it's a start - meaning they might eventually get there.

Get where, exactly? 88% of Google money comes from Ads[0], if you think their plan is to remove them from web you are either crazy or stupid.

[0] - http://www.businessinsider.de/how-google-apple-facebook-amaz...


It means it's a start towards protecting the user and working towards privacy and security goals. They will still make money selling ads.


It means it's a start towards removing competitors ads as "bad ones," meaning "use Adwords if you your ads to show and bypass the ad-blocker."


This is needlessly cynical. At the end of the day Google ads are unobtrusive and sane and have some standards in their construction. No fake download buttons, flashing gifs, and so on. It’s not their fault that most of the ad industry sucks.


Actually, I spoke to a Googler about this a couple months ago, and this is actually false! Despite Google's Chrome/Security teams planning to penalize sites with fake download buttons in early 2016 (https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2016/02/googl...), a Google employee actually confirmed for me that they weren't against the Ads team's policies, which is why they were still prevalent on sites with Google Ads this past year.

Which presumably means one division of Google could make money on a fake download button ad while another division of Google was penalizing a website for displaying it.

The employee in question said he was going to bring up the concern internally and try to get the policy changed, but I haven't heard anything since.


HN is full of cynics today. Google commits to taking a step in the right direction and people just refuse to believe it. I don't mind the downvotes, I've got karma to spare, but it is pretty silly. They should be applauded and encouraged, and we should be happy they are going this far.

It's in Google's best interest to make ads less intrusive and offensive. That way, people have less incentive to block them. Google can, and will, still profit from ads. However, they need to be good stewards or more people are going to just block them.


Firefox already has some protection implemented [1], but I don't know exactly how much is blocked.

[1] https://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/tracking-protection-pbm...


Would I be right to assume that safari on iOS defeats browser finger printing, given the absence of flash and the fact that you can't really customise the platform, adding new fonts, etc, so the entropy is close to zero?


It doesn't seem so, visiting Panopticlick[0] on my unmodified Safari/iPhone7/iOS 10.3.3 gives "your browser has a nearly unique fingerprint"

[0]https://panopticlick.eff.org/


So, panopticlick marks down my browser because it doesn't unblock third parties that promise to honour "Do not track".

In what way is this bad? (Yes, I have third party cookies blocked. No, I'm not unblocking them.)


The more things you do that aren't like what everyone else does, the easier it is to single you out from the combination of those choices.


It's bad in a sense that you're possible to identify uniquely by the advertisers.

Do not track is snake oil anyway...


Being on an iPhone will however reduce most of those bits to 0. For example any iPhone 8 with iOS11 will share the same screen resolution, fonts, user agent and so on. They talk about this in their methodology, however do not give the actual bits in their results, only that you have 'more than 19'


I got the same thing. When I look at the fingerprint details though, it's not clear why it should be "nearly unique". Of the things listed there, there's not much that's customizable, mostly just time zone, locale, DNT, and if cookies are enabled. That said, it also has "Hash of canvas fingerprint", which apparently has a lot of bits, but I have no idea what information that's actually extracting. Similarly "Hash of WebGL fingerprint".

I did try this on iOS 11, which they probably don't have much data for yet and would explain some of the unique-ness, but you said iOS 10.3.3 which is much less new.

Maybe iPhone users just don't try panopticlick very much?


Ditto on iOS 11 with Safari. In Firefox I get just unique, in Safari it is “nearly unique”.


I don't know how well Panopticlick would do for scoring Safari 11, as it runs all its tests within a few seconds. Some of Safari's new behaviour around third and first party cookies only kick in after 24 hours, or 30 days.


I’m golden on iOS 11.0.0


You can still do things like being able to get the battery status with JS or detect visited links.


Newer versions (since around 2013) of webkit and gecko limit a:visited style changes to just colour or background colour.

So the getComputedStyle() trick doesn't work anymore. Is that what your referring to?


> detect visited links

Is this still possible? I was under the impression this is prevented in most browsers.


Well, browser vendors keep adding features, and in 2014, it was predicted by lcamtuf that the mix-blend-mode property would be useful to access browser history:

https://lcamtuf.blogspot.fr/2016/08/css-mix-blend-mode-is-ba...

Two years later, it was implemented, and the demo seems to be working here in Firefox 56: http://lcamtuf.coredump.cx/whack/


Also wrt battery status - that's only Chrome thing these days.

http://caniuse.com/#feat=battery-status


For firefox there is dom.battery.enabled and https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/API/Battery_Sta... but it seems that since 42 it is enabled only for addons. It seems that I was wrong about that indeed.


> Apple does right by users and advertisers are displeased

Looking at all the anti-Apple bile and conspiracy theory crap on this thread, it looks like the anti-Apple crowd are completely unhinged by it as well.


I usually turn off 3rd party cookies in my browsers and it is fine with mostly all sites, but often I forget about that and can't log into few services, cause they implement logging in a somewhat wrong way. For a big example, Atlassian lost me (and my small dev department) because their auth is too complicated to fit in one domain, while all I wanted was a simple svn hosting backed by serious player, no matter the price. /mycookiestory


I'll write a theorem that every company ends up with single sign on, no matter how poor it is (oh hi Youtube, hi Ted Cruz).


Another one is MS and Sony PSN


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