Apple updates privacy policy: 'We sell great products,' not your data, says Tim Cook

Tim Cook, Apple iPhone 5S Event

Need another reason to upgrade to iOS 8? Apple can’t see any of your personal information if you have a passcode enabled on devices running the new OS. And if Apple can’t see it, the government can’t, either.

Apple CEO Tim Cook revealed the company’s new privacy measures in a Wednesday night letter that not-so-subtly slammed other tech companies like Facebook and Google.

“Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products,” Cook said. “We don’t build a profile based on your e-mail content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t ‘monetize’ the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your e-mail or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple.”

Apple launched a new privacy page detailing how it protects your data from prying eyes. If you’re using a device running iOS 8 and have a passcode activated, Apple can’t see any of the data behind the passcode. That includes photos, e-mails, messages, notes, call history, and contacts. Even if the police issue a warrant for that data, Apple said it’s “not technically feasible” to hand it over.

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Apple can't see e-mails or messages on devices running iOS 8 with passcodes enabled.

Apple has worked tirelessly over the last few weeks to clarify and strengthen its security tools as it seeks to handle your most private information. iOS 8’s HealthKit will centralize the health and medical data third-party apps collect on you, with your permission, so Apple has put in place developer guidelines that prevent those apps from selling that data to advertisers. In the wake of the celebrity photo hacking scandal, the company added two-step verification for iCloud backups. Apple has a slew of privacy measures put in place when it launches Apple Pay, a mobile payments platform that uses Near Field Communication technology baked into the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Apple Pay won’t store your financial information on your phone or on its servers, instead generating a one-time-use number, and will require Touch ID to authenticate your purchases.

HealthKit and Apple Pay have the potential to streamline your life, but they won’t find mass adoption until users are convinced that their information isn’t up for grabs—especially in the post-Snowden era. That’s where the iOS 8 passcode comes into play. But even before the new OS rolled out, Apple didn’t actually receive that many national security-related requests—less than 250 total in the first six months of this year.

“We have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services,” Cook said. “We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.”

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