Other tech companies also collect anonymous data from you and your devices

Other tech companies also collect anonymous data from you and your devices

Based on all the chatter over the last few weeks about privacy and Windows 10 an outsider, or everyday user, could be led to believe that Microsoft is in the process of doing things that no other big technology company does when it comes to data, privacy and usage of their OS’s.

The reality is very different though so I wanted to take some time and find instances in the current Apple licensing agreement for OS X (Yosemite) where your use of the products determines your consent to this information collection.

It begins with this standard warning:

PLEASE READ THIS SOFTWARE LICENSE AGREEMENT ("LICENSE") CAREFULLY BEFORE USING THE APPLE SOFTWARE.  BY USING THE APPLE SOFTWARE, YOU ARE AGREEING TO BE BOUND BY THE TERMS OF THIS LICENSE.

If you disagree then they say do not install or use the software. Remember when just removing the plastic wrap around a box of software meant you agreed with the licensing for the product?

Want to get access to certain features of the OS? Then use of an Apple ID is required.

Please note that the Apple Software is supported on only Apple branded hardware that meets specified system requirements as indicated by Apple. In addition, use of and access to certain features of the Apple Software and certain Services (as defined in Section 5) may require you to apply for a unique user name and password combination, known as an Apple ID.

How about transferring ownership of the OS?

If you obtained your license to the Apple Software from the Mac App Store, it is not transferable. If you sell your Apple-branded hardware to a third party, you must remove the Apple Software from the Apple-branded hardware before doing so, and you may restore your system to the version of the Apple operating system software that originally came with your Apple hardware (the “Original Apple OS”) and permanently transfer the Original Apple OS together with your Apple hardware, provided that: (i) the transfer must include all of the Original Apple OS, including all its component parts, printed materials and its license; (ii) you do not retain any copies of the Original Apple OS, full or partial, including copies stored on a computer or other storage device; and (iii) the party receiving the Original Apple OS reads and agrees to accept the terms and conditions of the Original Apple OS license.

Use of diagnostic and usage data.

If you choose to allow diagnostic and usage collection, you agree that Apple and its subsidiaries and agents may collect, maintain, process and use diagnostic, technical, usage and related information, including but not limited to unique system or hardware identifiers, information about your computer, system and application software, and peripherals, that is gathered periodically to provide and improve Apple’s products and services, facilitate the provision of software updates, product support and other services to you (if any) related to the Apple Software, and to verify compliance with the terms of this License.

After explaining how to opt out of the above information collection the license agreement states this:

Apple may use this information, as long as it is collected in a form that does not personally identify you, for the purposes described above. To enable Apple’s partners and third party developers to improve their software, hardware and services designed for use with Apple products, Apple may also provide any such partner or third party developer with a subset of diagnostic information that is relevant to that partner’s or developer’s software, hardware and/or services, as long as the diagnostic information is in a form that does not personally identify you.

How about location data?

When you use any location-based features within Maps, such as traffic and local search, various location-related and usage information may be sent to Apple, including the real-time geographic location of your computer, in order to process your request and help improve Maps. Such location and usage data is collected by Apple in a form that does not personally identify you. By using Maps, you agree and consent to Apple’s and its subsidiaries’ and agents’ transmission, collection, maintenance, processing, and use of this information to provide and improve the Maps features and service, and other Apple products and services. You may disable the location-based functionality of Maps by going to the Location Services setting on your computer and turning off the individual location setting for Maps. Certain Maps features will, however, be unavailable if you disable the Location Services setting.

You will find similar wording for Spotlight, Spotlight Suggestions in Safari, Searches, FaceTime, iMessages, and Dictation. Each can be disabled and opted out of but that opt out comes at the expense of the enhanced experience so many want on their personal devices.

You will find the same type of wording in the licensing agreements of other large tech companies like Google and of course, Microsoft.

The key element here is how they use this collected data and are transparent about it. As long as it is anonymous and used to improve my own user experience I am OK with that in the vast majority of circumstances. When I am not, then I choose to lose functionality as an end result.

The issue with all the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) being written about Windows 10 over the last few weeks is that all tech companies do this in some shape or form.

Some are very up front about it and provide the means to let you control that flow of information through privacy controls while others simply require it as part of your use of their services and do not provide you any options to keep your information private.

Take for instance this line from Google’s current Terms of Service:

Our automated systems analyze your content (including emails) to provide you personally relevant product features, such as customized search results, tailored advertising, and spam and malware detection. This analysis occurs as the content is sent, received, and when it is stored.

Certainly can’t fault them for being up front about it though can you?

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