Merchant Innovation

Apple's Play To Learn User Habits

Apple differential privacy

Apple is walking the tightrope between wanting to know more about its users’ mobile habits without violating their privacy.

The company is using a new technology called “differential privacy” to gain insights about exactly what users are doing on their Apple iPhone and iPad devices without breaking privacy policies, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday (June 16).

The technology is expected to be included in the fall update to Apple’s iOS operating system for the iPhone and iPad.

At the company’s developer conference earlier this week, Craig Federighi, Apple’s SVP of software engineering, said the technology is designed to help its engineers “spot patterns on how multiple users are using their devices.”

Differential privacy will enable Apple to use its existing algorithms to extract insightful data, while preventing the ability to link any of that data back to any individual users, WSJ explained.

While Apple will be able keep user data anonymous, it will still be able to see how its customers are using expressions or emojis or even see when deep links should lead to apps versus webpages.

Using the technology may also help the company to keep pace with other competitors in the space.

“They’ve been kind of surpassed by other players who are bigger data collectors — Google would be a good example — in the machine-learning arena and personalization of user interface,” Daniel Barth-Jones, a Columbia University epidemiology professor, told WSJ.

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