Apple AirPods & AirPods Pro
Things that go in your ears that are always on, always connected, and always listening — seems like there's the possibility something could go wrong. Whether you get the AirPods, AirPods Pro, or the pricey AirPods Max, Apple has a pretty good record when it comes to privacy and security so you should be safe. Now you just have to figure out a way not to lose these pricey little pods.
What could happen if something goes wrong?
Apple does a pretty good job with privacy and security as a company. But, like life, hackers find a way! So Apple has had some pretty serious security issues. In 2023, Apple released fixes for three different vulnerabilities that made it possible for bad actors to hack Apple devices. In 2022, they had a security flaw that could allow hackers to take complete control of iPhones, iPads, and Macs. Earlier that year, Apple also gave up data to hackers who forged emergency data requests from law enforcement. Eesh. Back in 2021, another bad security vulnerability could have allowed bad actors to record calls and messages and even turn the device camera and microphone on without the user knowing. Eesh. The good thing with Apple and security is, they seem to take these security breaches seriously, jump and fix them immediately, and communicate pretty well with users on what they need to do to stay safe. So keep those devices updated, folks!
Apple says they can collect things like name, email address, age, location, device information, contact information, and more. The good news is, Apple says they treat all this information as personal information. So, things like device ID and the like are treated as securely as your name and age. That’s good. And Apple says they don’t share or sell your data, which is also good. They do say they can share your data with some third parties such as business partners, service providers, and others as you give your permission. For the most part, this sharing looks pretty normal for the services they provide.
And when it comes to AI voice assistants, Siri is a bit more privacy conscious than others like Amazon’s Alexa. Apple says they take special care to make sure your Siri requests aren't associated with you, and those transcripts aren’t subject to human review--anymore. In 2021, Apple made another positive change for your Siri voice requests--many audio requests for things like setting timers or alarms or controlling music are no longer sent over the internet to their servers, instead they are processed directly on your device. This is better for your privacy.
On the privacy front, yes, Apple is generally better than other Big Tech companies (cough, Meta, cough cough, Amazon, cough Samsung), when it comes to privacy. They aren’t perfect, of course, but they do seem to do a better job at collecting less data because they aren’t trying to sell as many ads as Google and Facebook (yet, at least).
But Apple does say they can target you with some personalized ads on their platforms. Apple delivers ads to you on Apple News or App Store, and gives you the option to opt-out of these personalized ads using your Apple ID, which will opt you out of these ads across all Apple devices. However, keep an eye on how Apple does ads. Right now it’s not too worrisome to us, but that could be changing as they are reportedly growing their ad business and have already released new advertising products in early 2023. Hopefully, their public commitment to privacy will outweigh the need for extra ad dollars.
All in all, your AirPods are probably pretty secure and private. They’re still super easy to lose though, so keep in mind you can turn the Find My features on. That just means a little more location tracking in your life, which, in this case might be worth it.
Tips to protect yourself
- You can say “Hey Siri, stop listening.” to turn off speech recognition for some time
- Do not sign up with third-party accounts. Better just log in with email and strong password.
- Chose a strong password! You may use a password control tool like 1Password, KeePass etc
- Use your device privacy controls to limit access to your personal information via app (do not give access to your camera, microphone, images, location unless neccessary)
- Keep your app regularly updated
- Limit ad tracking via your device (eg on iPhone go to Privacy -> Advertising -> Limit ad tracking) and biggest ad networks (for Google, go to Google account and turn off ad personalization)
- Request your data be deleted once you stop using the app. Simply deleting an app from your device usually does not erase your personal data.
- When starting a sign-up, do not agree to tracking of your data if possible.
What can be used to sign up?
No sign-up required
What data does the company collect?
Your Apple ID and related account details, including email address, devices registered, account status, and age, data from which your device could be identified, such as device serial number, or about your device, such as browser type, data such as name, email address, physical address, phone number, or other contact information, data about your billing address and method of payment, such as bank details, credit, debit, or other payment card information, data about purchases of Apple products and services or transactions facilitated by Apple, including purchases on Apple platforms, data used to help identify and prevent fraud, including a device trust score, data about your activity on and use of Apple's offerings, such as app launches within Apple services, including browsing history; search history; product interaction; crash data, performance and other diagnostic data; and other usage data, precise location only to support services such as Find My or where you agree for region-specific services, and coarse location, details including salary, income, and assets information where collected, and information related to Apple-branded financial offerings, government ID Data (In certain jurisdictions, we may ask for a government-issued ID in limited circumstances, including when setting up a wireless account and activating your device, for the purpose of extending commercial credit, managing reservations, or as required by law);
Voice recordings, if you opt-in
Details such as the content of your communications with Apple, including interactions with customer support and contacts through social media channels.
How does the company use this data?
How can you control your data?
What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?
In July 2023, Apple and Amazon were fined by Spain antitrust watchdog.
In January 2023, Apple was fined €8M in French privacy case.
In 2021, Apple had a recent serious spyware security vulnerability called Pegaus that infected iPhones and other Apple devices.
In 2021, a major data leak was reported of 61 million fitness tracker data records, including Apple's Healthkit data, by the third party company GetHealth. In September 2021, a group of security researchers discovered GetHealth had an unsecured database containing over 61 million records related to wearable technology and fitness services. GetHealth accessed health data belonging to wearable device users around the world and leaked it in an non-password protected, unencrypted database. The list contained names, birthdates, weight, height, gender, and geographical location, as well as other medical data, such as blood pressure.
Child Privacy Information
Can this product be used offline?
User-friendly privacy information?
Links to privacy information
Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards?
Uses encryption in transit and at rest.
Apple has a bug bounty program.
Some of Apple's AI research can be found at https://machinelearning.apple.com/.
Is this AI untrustworthy?
What kind of decisions does the AI make about you or for you?
Is the company transparent about how the AI works?
Does the user have control over the AI features?
Amazon and Apple fined $218 million by Spain antitrust watchdogCNN Business
Apple fined €8M in French privacy casePolitico
Apple’s Privacy Mythology Doesn’t Match RealityWired
Apple says it prioritizes privacy. Experts say gaps remainThe Guardian
Apple’s Illusion of Privacy Is Getting Harder to SellThe New York Times
Apple resumes human reviews of Siri audioAssociated Press
Apple’s AI plan: a thousand small conveniencesThe Verge
Apple apologises for allowing workers to listen to Siri recordingsThe Guardian
9 Apple AirPods tricks you’ll wish you knew before nowKomando.com
Apple overhauls Siri to address privacy concerns and improve performanceThe Guardian
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