Apple Homepod

Apple Homepod

Apple
Wi-Fi Bluetooth

Review date: Nov. 1, 2023

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Mozilla says

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People voted: Somewhat creepy

If you want "profound sound" when you tell Siri to play your favorite Taylor Swift playlist (don't pretend you don't have one!), then the new second generation Apple HomePod might be for you. The big brother to Apple's HomePod Mini disappeared in 2022 but has made a comeback in 2023, complete with five beam forming tweeters, a 20mm driven diaphragm, and even built-in temperature and humidity sensors. All that sounds pretty fancy for a device you can use to ask Siri to set a timer so you don't burn your pizza bites in the oven. So, how is Apple's Homepod at privacy? Well, Apple does seem to be a bit better than some of the other Big Tech companies at privacy...for now at least.

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. 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 any information used to personalize things for you across your Apple devices is synced over iCloud using end-to-end encryption. 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.

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 don't sell your data and do seem to do a better job at collecting less of it in general.

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 Homepod. This is better for your privacy.

Now 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.

Apple isn’t perfect. In January 2023, Apple was fined eight million euros by France’s data protection authority because they determined that in 2021, Apple’s iOS 14 didn’t comply with EU privacy requirements. The complaint said its default settings allowed targeted ads from Apple without asking users for consent. Regulators agreed. The thing is, Apple could do better. So it's important to hold them accountable for their privacy promises.

What’s the worst that could happen? Well, this is a good time to remind people that Apple’s privacy policy -- as do almost all the privacy policies we read -- has a clause that says, “We may also disclose information about you where there is a lawful basis for doing so, if we determine that disclosure is reasonably necessary to enforce our terms and conditions or to protect our operations or users, or in the event of a reorganization, merger, or sale.” So, while Apple is pretty good now, there is no guarantee that Apple won’t reorganize their business or change their privacy practices in the future. Then that personal information you trust them with now could become more vulnerable or more valuable. Here’s hoping Apple keeps being one of the better ones out there though. 🤞

Tips to protect yourself

  • You can say “Hey Siri, stop listening” to turn off speech recognition for a period of time
  • Turn off Location Services on HomePod
  • Remove HomePod from the Home app before selling it or giving it away
  • Check out Apple Homepod privacy controls.
  • You can turn off location services on your Homepod, too
  • Before you give HomePod to someone else, you should remove it from the Home app
  • Use your device privacy controls to limit access to your personal information via app (do not give access to your camera, microphone, images and videos)
  • 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)
  • mobile

Can it snoop on me? information

Camera

Device: No

App: N/A

Microphone

Device: Yes

App: N/A

Tracks location

Device: No

App: N/A

What can be used to sign up?

What data does the company collect?

How does the company use this data?

Apple Privacy Policy

"Apple may receive personal data about you from other individuals, from businesses or third parties acting at your direction, from our partners who work with us to provide our products and services and assist us in security and fraud prevention, and from other lawful sources.

- Individuals. Apple may collect data about you from other individuals — for example, if that individual has sent you a product or gift card, invited you to participate in an Apple service or forum, or shared content with you.
- At Your Direction. You may direct other individuals or third parties to share data with Apple. For example, you may direct your mobile carrier to share data about your carrier account with Apple for account activation, or for your loyalty program to share information about your participation so that you can earn rewards for Apple purchases.
- Apple Partners. We may also validate the information you provide — for example, when creating an Apple ID, with a third party for security, and for fraud-prevention purposes.

For research and development purposes, we may use datasets such as those that contain images, voices, or other data that could be associated with an identifiable person. <...> When using such datasets for research and development, we do not attempt to reidentify individuals who may appear therein."

"Apple does not sell your personal data including as 'sale' is defined in Nevada and California. Apple also does not 'share' your personal data as that term is defined in California."

"Apple may share personal data with Apple-affiliated companies, service providers who act on our behalf, our partners, developers, and publishers, or others at your direction. Apple does not share personal data with third parties for their own marketing purposes."

"Apple uses personal data to power our services, to process your transactions, to communicate with you, for security and fraud prevention, and to comply with law. We may also use personal data for other purposes with your consent."

"Ad Targeting Information. To see information about you that may be used to deliver targeted ads by Apple’s advertising platform, including the segments that you are in."

How can you control your data?

Apple Privacy Policy

"At Apple, we respect your ability to know, access, correct, transfer, restrict the processing of, and delete your personal data. We have provided these rights to our global customer base..."

"There may be situations where we cannot grant your request — for example, if you ask us to delete your transaction data and Apple is legally obligated to keep a record of that transaction to comply with law. We may also decline to grant a request where doing so would undermine our legitimate use of data for anti-fraud and security purposes, such as when you request deletion of an account that is being investigated for security concerns. Other reasons your privacy request may be denied are if it jeopardizes the privacy of others, is frivolous or vexatious, or would be extremely impractical."

"Apple retains personal data only for so long as necessary to fulfill the purposes for which it was collected, including as described in this Privacy Policy or in our service-specific privacy notices, or as required by law. We will retain your personal data for the period necessary to fulfill the purposes outlined in this Privacy Policy and our service-specific privacy summaries. When assessing retention periods, we first carefully examine whether it is necessary to retain the personal data collected and, if retention is required, work to retain the personal data for the shortest possible period permissible under law."

What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?

Needs Improvement

In July 2023, Apple and Amazon were fined by Spain antitrust watchdog.

In January 2023, Apple was fined €8M in French privacy case.

In 2022, Apple identified and patched serious security vulnerabilities, one that could allow hackers take full control of iOS devices.

In 2022, Apple allegedly gave user data to hackers who faked being law enforcement and forged requests for information.

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

Apple Privacy Policy

"Apple understands the importance of safeguarding the personal data of children, which we consider to be an individual under the age of 13 or the equivalent age as specified by law in your jurisdiction. That is why Apple has implemented additional processes and protections to help keep children's personal data safe.

To access certain Apple services, a child must have a child Apple ID. A child Apple ID may be created by the parent or, in the case of a Managed Apple ID, by the child's educational institution."

Can this product be used offline?

Yes

User-friendly privacy information?

Yes

Links to privacy information

Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards? information

Yes

Encryption

Yes

Uses encryption both in transit and at rest.

Strong password

Yes

Security updates

Yes

Manages vulnerabilities

Yes

Apple has a bug bounty program. Link: https://developer.apple.com/security-bounty/

Privacy policy

Yes

Does the product use AI? information

Yes

Some of Apple's AI research can be found at https://machinelearning.apple.com/.

Is this AI untrustworthy?

Can’t Determine

What kind of decisions does the AI make about you or for you?

Apple states in its privacy policy, "Apple does not use algorithms or profiling to make any decision that would significantly affect you without the opportunity for human review." Apple employs machine learning in many different ways, from using it to to improve Siri to using it to sharpen the photos that you take.

Is the company transparent about how the AI works?

Yes

Does the user have control over the AI features?

Yes

*privacy not included

Dive Deeper

  • Amazon and Apple fined $218 million by Spain antitrust watchdog
    CNN Business Link opens in a new tab
  • Apple fined €8M in French privacy case
    Politico Link opens in a new tab
  • Apple apologises for allowing workers to listen to Siri recordings
    The Guardian Link opens in a new tab
  • Apple says it prioritizes privacy. Experts say gaps remain
    The Guardian Link opens in a new tab
  • Apple’s Privacy Mythology Doesn’t Match Reality
    Wired Link opens in a new tab
  • Apple is sneaking around its own privacy policy — and will regret it
    Computer World Link opens in a new tab
  • Apple Still Has a Privacy Problem
    PC Magazine Link opens in a new tab
  • Apple’s AI plan: a thousand small conveniences
    The Verge Link opens in a new tab
  • How to keep the smart speaker you got for the holidays and still keep some of your privacy, too
    Vox Link opens in a new tab
  • Apple’s privacy-centric brand image takes a hit as it scrambles to fix security bugs
    The Drum Link opens in a new tab
  • Apple’s Illusion of Privacy Is Getting Harder to Sell
    The New York Times Link opens in a new tab

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