PYMNTS Intelligence Banner June 2024

Apple’s AI Push Puts Privacy, Security in the Spotlight

As Apple enters the race to bring advanced artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to consumer devices and services, the tech giant is betting that a strong emphasis on privacy and security will set its offerings apart in an increasingly competitive market.

At its annual Worldwide Developers Conference this week, Apple unveiled Apple Intelligence, a broad AI ecosystem that spans its devices and introduces a secure Private Cloud Compute service for handling complex AI tasks. The move comes as businesses increasingly rely on AI for sensitive data processing and analytics, making robust security measures more critical than ever.

Apple’s new Private Cloud Compute service represents the right step forward in the realm of data privacy and security and shows the direction in which all companies should be moving,” Yannik Schrade, CEO and co-founder of computing startup Arcium, told PYMNTS.

“By leveraging hardware-based security measures such as Secure Boot and Secure Enclave Processors, Apple aims to provide a more secure environment for AI computations. This can increase business trust, encouraging the adoption of AI-driven analytics and data processing solutions within a more secure framework.”

Security-First Approach

However, Schrade cautioned that while Apple’s approach is a positive development, it’s only a first step. “Trusted hardware-based confidential computing has been around for quite some time and is a field that, due to the complexity of ensuring actual hardware-based security, has in itself seen a lot of exploits, vulnerabilities, and data breaches,” he noted.Those systems still require trust in third parties, which, in the ideal case, would not be required from users.”

Some cybersecurity experts also warn that the effectiveness of Apple’s privacy and security measures will depend on proper implementation and user education.

In the past, Macs have relied on 0365 to store sensitive data, but there was a lack of awareness around them, and users could easily make these buckets public, leaking information,” Jason Lamar, senior vice president of product at the cybersecurity firm Cobalt.io, told PYMNTS.

Similarly, Apple’s new Private Cloud Compute may have the same emphasis on privacy and security. Still, there will need to be a lot of training around it both internally and for Apple users to ensure the information can’t be accessed by bad actors.”

Lamar also noted that Apple’s use of custom silicon in its Private Cloud Compute servers, while potentially enhancing efficiency and control, may present challenges for security verification.

It gives Apple tight control over the end-to-end processing and customer experience,” he said.It may make it harder for security leaders to verify and trust that security is being performed at all layers depending upon what kind of transparency Apple will provide for the many layers involved.”

Apple has long led Big Tech in its stance on user privacy, so other companies will have a harder time following up on the momentum from these product announcements, Gal Ringel, co-founder and CEO at data privacy platform Mine, told PYMNTS. 

“Apple going all-in on AI, despite the past year of privacy turbulence in the sphere, is indicative of how much the technology will be used to fuel innovation in the coming years,he added.

Ringel sees Apple’s move as potentially encouraging for companies that have been hesitant to fully embrace AI amidst recent privacy concerns.Apple is paving the way for companies to balance data privacy and innovation, and the positive reception of this news, as opposed to other AI product releases, demonstrates that building up the value of privacy is a strategy that pays off in today’s world,” he said.

However, Lamar warned that data leaks could undermine trust in AI technologies.Should data leaks begin to show, they could have the opposite effect and cause distrust among organizations and AI,” he said.

OpenAI Partnership Raises Questions

Another key aspect of Apple’s AI strategy is its partnership with OpenAI to integrate the ChatGPT chatbot into its Siri digital assistant. While the move has generated excitement, it has also raised concerns about the security implications of the widely used AI tool.

OpenAI’s ChatGPT is used by bad actors and everyday employees on all levels,” Lamar cautioned.Even the most inexperienced cyberattackers can use OpenAI to mimic human language, make more advanced phishing emails, create fake sites, and organize disinformation campaigns.”

The ubiquity of ChatGPT across various platforms and companies has also raised questions about its overall safety and security.The technology can cause uneasiness, and this year, the number of security vulnerabilities increased by 21%, putting organizations at greater risk than ever before,” Lamar noted.

To mitigate the security risks posed by ChatGPT and other AI technologies, experts emphasize the importance of robust cybersecurity training for employees and proactive measures by IT departments.It’s also more important than ever for IT departments to ensure that their security postures are up to date and they are taking proactive and not reactive actions,Lamar said. 

As Apple and other tech giants vie for dominance in the rapidly evolving AI market, the company’s focus on privacy and security could set a new standard for the industry. However, the ultimate success of its approach will depend on effective implementation, transparency, and user education to ensure that the benefits of AI can be harnessed while mitigating the risks posed by increasingly sophisticated threats and the widespread adoption of powerful AI tools like ChatGPT.

“Mobile devices, especially phones, are continuing to grow in capability, even surpassing traditional computers, as evidenced by this Apple announcement,” Krishna Vishnubhotla, vice president of product strategy at mobile security firm Zimperium, told PYMNTS.

Apple’s Silicon Future

As businesses evaluate the security aspects of AI more closely, Ringel suggested that Apple’s commitment to data protection could potentially slow down broad AI adoption.It will become a competitive aspect of whose AI an organization will use, and potentially slow down broad AI adoption as more time and testing will be performed by customers in evaluating security aspects of AI,” he said.

Looking ahead, Schrade says, “The future lies in hybrid solutions that incorporate hardware- and software-based confidential computing to offer both high efficiency and trustlessness at the same time. It’s exciting to see Apple recognize the importance of user privacy and data security, values we have been pushing for years.”

Apple’s approach to privacy and security in its AI offerings could shape the industry’s future. However, the company must balance delivering cutting-edge AI capabilities and ensuring robust data protection to maintain user trust and drive widespread adoption in an increasingly complex and competitive landscape.

For all PYMNTS AI coverage, subscribe to the daily AI Newsletter.