Whether it's granting full-on access to your social profiles, or casually leaving a trail of metadata, like when and who you messaged in an app, such as FaceTime, if you're on the internet, you're giving away information. The recent Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed how we continuously generate data, and that data might as well be the new oil.
What we do online, the sites we visit, the things we buy, the people we message or call, the shows we watch... that's all user data, and it can be harvested and analysed to figure out who you are and what you're most likely to do next. Companies use that information to tailor ads, sell you relevant goods, and, in some cases, manipulate you.
But consumers are becoming more aware of this business, and they want to know which companies track them and what type of information is stored on them. Does it provide a data-download tool?
Yes, it does.
How to find out what data Apple has on you
If you'd like to get a copy of your data from Apple, follow these steps:
- Go to Apple's Privacy Questions webpage: www.apple.com/privacy/contact
- From the "I have a question about" drop-down menu, select "Privacy Issues".
- Fill out the form. You'll be asked to provide your name and email.
- For a subject, write: "Data request".
- For a comment, write: "I want a copy of all the data Apple has on me."
- Finally, submit the form.
How long does it take to receive your data?
Apple usually takes a few days to respond, so have patience. For instance, ZDNet received an email response from Apple within a few days, while CNBC received an email response from Apple in six days. It varies.
Apple's privacy team will first email you to verify your identity. It might ask you to provide some of the same information you already submitted, as well as some other factors associated with your account, such as:
- Full name
- Apple ID if known
- Email address
- Street address
- Telephone number
- A registered product serial number
- AppleCare support case number, or date and time of AppleCare support chat
Once you reply with this information, you'll need to wait again for a second email from Apple. Again, this could take days.
How to download a copy of your Apple data
A second email should arrive in a few days. It will include a password that's used to open a zip file of your data. The zip file will contain folders with mostly Excel spreadsheets. ZDNet received spreadsheets weighing 5MB in total, which isn't a lot, considering data from Facebook, Google, and Twitter can come in around a couple gigabytes in size.
What type of data does Apple have on you?
The answer to this question depends on you, how many Apple devices and services you have used, and how often you've interacted with Apple in the past. Here are some examples of what you might find:
- Basic account information
- Logs of every time your device downloads data from iCloud
- A record of all your interactions in iCloud email
- Whenever you've reset your Apple ID password
- Logs of all the times you tried to place a FaceTime call or send an iMessage
- An entire history of devices and accessories you've purchased from Apple
- Any time you've called AppleCare - with notes about the issue you reported
- All your repair transactions with Apple
- Al the times you've logged into iTunes
- Gaming sessions stored in Game Center
- A record of every song uploaded to or downloaded from iTunes Match
- All your purchases from iTunes
And that's about it. Clearly, Apple collects information about you, but you won't see anything dire like copies of entire messages, ads you've clicked, or copies of your photos - all things that services like Google and Facebook can have on you. But, remember, Apple is a hardware maker. It's not wholly focused on serving you ads.