In 2018, the European Union passed a world-changing regulation. The unexciting-sounding General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force in May 2018 and it made huge changes in the way tech companies can collect and use personal data – not just in Europe, but worldwide.
One of the most welcome consequences of GDPR has been a new openness from tech giants that had previously guarded their data collection practices. Google, Twitter, and Facebook have all started to come clean about the way they use data, but none have been quite as proactive as Apple.
Around the time GDPR came into force, Apple created a “Privacy Portal”. By using this portal, anyone with an Apple ID can find out what the company knows about them. And it turns out, that’s quite a lot. So let’s try to answer the question of “what does Apple know about me?”, and how you can make sure you get all the information you need.
How to discover your Apple data profile
Before listing the various pieces of information that Apple collects, you’ll probably want to know more about exactly how to access your Apple ID data profile.
To do so, head to your Apple ID account and scroll down until you see the Date & Privacy section. Click on the link to “Manage your Data and Privacy” and then click the “Get Started” link on the next page you see.
Now, click the link marked “Get a Copy of Your Data”. This won’t immediately send you a readout of what Apple knows about you. Instead, you’ll have to verify that you are who you claim to be. Enter the verification information requested, and the system will process your request. Apple will post information about your data within a short period of time (not straight away), and you’ll be notified when it’s ready to view.
The data is then held on your Apple ID account. You can download your Apple data from iCloud servers to store it locally, but Apple will delete the online copy 14 days after your request.
When the documents are in your account, you’ll have a whole host of fascinating information about who you are, what you’ve bought, and what they know. Great isn’t it? Well, it’s better than keeping it all hidden away.
Anyway, the big question now is what does Apple know about me? And now, you’re in a position to find the answer.
Discover what data Apple has collected about your digital life
Once you’ve accessed your privacy details on Apple’s website, this is more or less the kind of information you’ll discover:
- Your Apple ID account data – this will include details about every sign in you make with your ID
- iCloud data – includes details about any calendars, contact lists, emails, event reminders, bookmarked sites, videos, text documents, audio files or photos that you have held on the Apple iCloud. The iCloud is also used by many Apple users to store health information, such as exercise records, sleep patterns or heart monitoring. But Apple does not have access to this specific information, and it won’t appear in your data readout.
- App information – if you have used any Apple Apps, this section will include information about when you accessed them. Apps could include the iCloud, Game Center and Apple Music.
- Purchases – includes a rundown of products you have purchased from the iTunes Store, the App Store, and Apple Books. It also records pages you have viewed on all of these eCommerce platforms.
- Administrative details – includes information about marketing communications and changes to your general preferences.
- Interactions with Apple – if you have communicated with the Apple Store or sought help from their Support services, these interactions will be documented here.
- Some, but not all phone calls – if you are logged on to the iCloud, any calls made with Apple devices will be logged and recorded on your data readout. So that doesn’t include all calls made with iPhones or other Apple communications devices.
How does Apple send information when you download data from iCloud servers?
If you want to know what data Apple collects, be prepared to brush up on your data analysis tools. That’s because Apple haven’t created user-friendly apps to display the data they collect, and it is delivered pretty much in raw format for users to wade through.
The data thankfully comes in conventional formats like .xls (Excel spreadsheets) and metadata can be read in standard word processors without any issues. But it’s not light reading, and the content takes some decoding if you aren’t familiar with how metadata works.
Data from Apple is also divided into a few key files:
- AccountDetails – a basic readout of your account details, including your name, phone number, address and Apple ID code. Additionally, Apple log the IP address you used to create your Apple ID account, and the date when you opened it.
- iCloudLogs – this file contains all of the information Apple hold on you that relates to your iCloud usage. So, every time your iPhone downloads data from iCloud based services, it’s logged and registered by Apple’s data team. However, as you’ll see, this is just metadata, not actual photos or movie files.
- MailLogs – this file relates to the instances in which your Apple device has made contact with your iCloud email service, without actually logging the content of any emails.
- AOS Orders – this file logs the purchases you’ve made via Apple services.
- CRM Installed Product – a log of all of the Apple devices you have installed with your Apple ID, including their serial numbers, information about whether they have been unlocked at any stage, as well as networking information about Bluetooth, WiFi or Ethernet connections.
- CRM AppleCare Case Contact – includes information about whether you have opted into Apple’s marketing procedures.
- CRM AppleCare Case Header – one of the most interesting documents in the disclosure process, this file includes your interactions with Apple’s customer service team. It also features short summaries of your interactions, noting the main purpose and the outcome of the interaction.
- CRM Warranty – includes details about any Apple warranties you have.
- iForgot – details any requests under the iForgot password system.
- Game Center – includes information about every game that you’ve downloaded as well as all of the sessions you started.
- iTunes Downloads – includes a personal musical history, with every track you’ve downloaded since joining iTunes. Extra files include details about how you have used the iTunes Match service.
- Repair Transaction Details – another interesting file, this time recording every interaction you’ve had with Apple’s repair service.
What doesn’t appear on my data readout from Apple?
Most Apple users will note that the scope of data collection documented by Apple isn’t actually as extensive as it potentially could be. For instance, we noted above that not all calls appear on the logs, and health information isn’t included.
That’s not all, though. If you send text messages via an Apple phone or iPad, they won’t be recorded or made accessible to Apple, who state that all messages are encrypted to ensure that they remain private.
However, there may be other data that isn’t covered specifically by the Apple ID disclosure system. So while we are getting a lot more transparency about how the tech giant collects information, you may need to dig deeper to find out exactly what they know.
For example, if you’ve made FaceTime calls or invitations, that won’t be covered by the disclosure. Instead, Apple invite FaceTime users to make a separate request for details about their invitations. Any AppleCare case notes from device repairs are kept separate as well and can be requested via [email protected]
So while the haul of Apple data listed earlier is quite a lot more than we used to know, it’s not exactly everything Apple gathers about its customers. It might be more accurate to say it’s the least Apple could disclose to comply with GDPR regulations, which is a lot – bit not the whole story.
Find out your Apple data footprint today
Now is a good time to take advantage of the effects of GDPR, particularly if you’ve had concerns about how your data is being used.
Apple make it fairly easy to request information, and although it can amount to a lot of data, it’s actually quite easy to assimilate.
And when all’s said and done, you might actually be surprised by how little they know – not how deep their data gathering tentacles have reached.