The Blog

Apple Just Did Something Amazing

Apple Pay, the contactless and in-app purchasing system announced by Apple this week... is not that amazing something.

Apple Pay, the contactless and in-app purchasing system announced by Apple this week... is not that amazing something.

For a payments security veteran the herding of industry players into the Apple Pay ecosystem is for sure impressive, and the timing is inspired but I reserve my superlatives for things of more fundamental import.

Far from the glitz and glamour of 'transforming mobile payments' another announcement from Cupertino has captured my attention.

In a change to their Privacy Policy, starting with iOS 8, Apple have deliberately changed their products so as to make it practically impossible for them get inside your iThing and extract personal information without your consent. And why in particular might they do this? Because if they can't get in, then neither (within reason) can government operatives.

Still reeling in the wake of the Snowdon revelations many US tech companies are scrambling to recover their reputations on the world stage, and putting distance between themselves and their national authorities is central to all theirmarketingplans. Apple's is one of the boldest moves yet (in the USA, at least) in openly defying mass gathering systems like PRISM and forcing more transparency into the system.

So where will this lead? Well, one important thing to note is that since Apple can no longer get behind your passcode then you, the user, bear that little bit more responsibility for your own access. Lose your passcode and that's it: game over. You can reset the device of course but all your photos, messages, contacts will be gone.

No biggie, say Apple - you'll have backed all those up to iCloud anyway. But we all know now how safe it is to keep your private things in there. Won't The Man just go after that now instead?

But still, you don't have to use iCloud (I don't) and Apple has just started rolling out 2FA (albeit a rather last-decade kind) so choice is beginning to appear for the user. Corporate CISOs may well want to study this discrepancy and make their own policies about use of iCloud on corporate devices.

Bottom line, marketing-driven or not Apple is making a big stand against surveillance and bringing user privacy front and centre. It's sad, and telling, that even in the post-Snowdon era this change gets relatively little publicity while brightly-coloured trinkets and baubles are so frequently lauded.

This is not an advertisement for iOS 8, or even Apple as a whole. This should be seen as a beginning. It's a call for all of us to demand the same choice and protection from all our gadget suppliers. Fix All The Things!