Apple's 'differential privacy' tech seeks insight on user behavior without violating privacy

Apple is a notorious stalwart for protecting user privacy, largely evidenced by its months-long battle with the Department of Justice to unlock the iPhone used by a gunman in the San Bernardino shooting. But this lack of user data can be a hindrance when trying to develop new offerings. In efforts to gain insight on user behavior while maintaining user privacy, Apple is developing software for "differential privacy," which will allow the company to gather data and glean insights on user behavior while upholding individual privacy, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Differential privacy seeks to glean insight from a group of users, instead of individuals, according to the report. It does so by adding incorrect information to collected data in a way that algorithms can still extract useful data, but makes it difficult for anyone to link data back to individuals.

At Apple's Worldwide Developers' Conference on Monday, Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, discussed the company's differential privacy plans. "We believe you should have great features and great privacy," Mr. Federighi said, according to WIRED. "Differential privacy is a research topic in the area of statistics and data analytics that uses hashing, subsampling and noise injection to enable…crowdsourced learning while keeping the data of individual users completely private."

This type of analysis will help Apple stay on par with its main competitors that collect user data, like Google, in terms of machine learning for development and personalization purposes, according to WSJ.

The differential privacy technology is expected to be included in the fall iOS update, according to the report.

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