In 2018, the European Union passed a regulation that changed the world. The unimaginatively named General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force in May 2018. The GDPR immediately changed how websites can collect and use personal data – not just in Europe, but worldwide.
The tech companies that had jealously guarded their data collection practices before the introduction of the GDPR were forced to change their course. Facebook, Google, and Twitter have all begun to come clean about how they use data. However, none have been quite as proactive in that department as Apple.
As soon as the GDPR came into force, Apple created the Privacy Portal where anyone with an Apple ID can discover what the tech giant knows about them.
As it turns out, Apple a whole host host of data about its every user, which might include you as well.
How to find your Apple data profile
Before we delve into the various pieces of information collected by Apple, let’s see exactly how to access your Apple ID data profile:
1. Head to your Apple ID account and scroll down until you see the Date & Privacy section.
2. Click on the link to Manage your Data and Privacy.
3. Next, click the Get Started link.
4. Then, click the link marked Get a Copy of Your Data. Before Apple sends you a readout of what the company knows about you, however, you’ll have to verify that you’re who you claim to be. Enter the verification information requested, and the system will process your request.
Shortly after you enter your details, Apple will post information about your data 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.
As soon as the documents are in your account, you’ll have quite a treasure trove of information about who you are, what you’ve bought from Apple, and what they know.
Learn what data Apple has collected about your digital life
This is (more or less) the kind of information you’ll see when you access your privacy details on Apple’s website:
1. Your Apple ID account data – this will include details about every sign in you make with your ID
2. iCloud data – this includes details about any contact lists, calendars, event reminders, emails, bookmarked sites, videos, audio files, photos, or text documents that you’ve held on the Apple iCloud. The iCloud is also where many Apple users store their health information like exercise records, heart monitoring data, or sleep patterns. However, Apple doesn’t have access to this specific information, and it won’t appear in your data readout.
3. App information – if you’ve used any Apple apps, this section will include data about when you accessed them. The apps listed could include the iCloud, Apple Music, and Game Center.
4. Purchases – includes a readout of products you’ve purchased from the App Store, iTunes, and Apple Books. It also records pages you’ve viewed on all of these platforms.
5. Administrative details – includes information about marketing communications and changes to your general preferences.
6. Interactions with Apple – if you’ve communicated with the Apple Store or sought help from their customer support, those interactions will be documented here.
7. Some (but not all) phone calls – if you’re 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 don’t have user-friendly apps to display the data they collect, and all that data is delivered in raw format for users to wade through.
Thankfully, the data at least comes in conventional formats like .xls (Excel spreadsheets), while metadata can be read with standard word processors without any issue. That said, it’s definitely 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, address, phone number, and, of course, Apple ID code. Additionally, Apple logs the IP address that you used to create your Apple ID account, and the date when you opened it.
· iCloudLogs – this file contains all of the data Apple holds on you that relates to your iCloud usage. So, every time your iPhone downloads data from services based on iCloud 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 shows you the instances in which your Apple device has made contact with your iCloud email service (without actually logging the content of any of your emails).
· AOS Orders – this file logs the purchases you’ve made using Apple services.
· CRM Installed Product – this is a log of all the Apple devices you’ve installed with your Apple ID. This includes th devices’ serial numbers, networking information about Bluetooth, Wifi, or Ethernet connections, as well as info about whether they have been unlocked at any stage.
· CRM AppleCare Case Contact – includes information about whether you have opted into Apple’s marketing procedures.
· CRM AppleCare Case Header – this is one of the most interesting documents in the disclosure process. It includes your interactions with the Apple customer service team. This file also features short summaries of your interactions, noting the main purpose and the outcome of every 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 that records every interaction you’ve had with the Apple repair service.
What does not appear on my Apple data readout?
You’ll probably note that the scope of data collection documented by Apple isn’t actually as extensive as it 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, however. If you send text messages via iPhone or iPad, they won’t be recorded or made accessible to Apple. The company states that all messages are encrypted to ensure 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’s a particularly good time to take advantage of the effects of GDPR, particularly if you’ve had concerns about how your data is being used.
Apple makes it relatively easy to request information, and although it can amount to a lot of data, it’s actually quite easy to parse.
And when all’s said and done, you might actually be surprised by how little they know about you – not how deep their data gathering tentacles have reached.