For years, Apple has carefully curated a reputation as a privacy stalwart among data-hungry and growth-seeking tech companies.
In multi-platform ad campaigns, the company told consumers that “what happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone,” and equated its products with security through slogans like “Privacy. That’s iPhone.”
But experts say that while Apple sets the bar when it comes to hardware and in some cases software security, the company could do more to protect user data from landing in the hands of police and other authorities.
In recent years, US law enforcement agencies have increasingly made use of data collected and stored by tech companies in investigations and prosecutions. Experts and civil liberties advocates have raised concerns about authorities’ extensive access to consumers’ digital information, warning it can violate fourth amendment protections against unreasonable searches. Those fears have only grown as once protected behaviors such as access to abortion have become criminalized in many states.
“The more that a company like Apple can do to set itself up to either not get law enforcement requests or to be able to say that they can’t comply with them by using tools like end-to-end encryption, the better it’s going to be for the company,” said Caitlin Seeley George, the campaigns and managing director at the digital advocacy group Fight for the Future.
Apple gave data to law enforcement 90% of the time
Apple receives thousands of law enforcement requests for user data a year, and overwhelmingly cooperates with them, according to its own transparency reports.
In the first half of 2021, Apple received 7,122 law enforcement requests in the US for the account data of 22,427 people. According to the company’s most recent transparency report, Apple handed over some level of data in response to 90% of the requests. Of those 7,122 requests, the iPhone maker challenged or rejected 261 requests.
The company’s positive response rate is largely in line with, and at times slightly higher than that of counterparts like Facebook and Google. However, both of those companies have documented far more requests from authorities than the iPhone maker.
In the second half of 2021, Facebook received nearly 60,000 law enforcement requests from US authorities and produced data in 88% of cases, according to that company’s most recent transparency report. In that same period, Google received 46,828 law enforcement requests affecting more than 100,000 accounts and handed over some level of data in response to more than 80% of the requests, according to the search giant’s transparency report. That’s more than six times the number of law enforcement requests Apple received in a comparable time frame.
That’s because the amount of data Apple collects on its users pales in comparison with other players in the space, said Jennifer Golbeck, a computer science professor at the University of Maryland. She noted that Apple’s business model relies less on marketing, advertising and user data – operations based on data collection. “They just naturally don’t have a use for doing analytics on people’s data in the same way that Google and a lot of other places do,” she said.
Apple’s drafted detailed guidelines outlining exactly what data authorities can obtain and how it can get it – a level of detail, the company says, which is in keeping with best practices.
Despite ‘secure’ hardware, iCloud and other services pose risks
But major gaps remain, privacy advocates say.
While iMessages sent between Apple devices are end-to-end encrypted, preventing anyone but the sender and recipient from accessing it, not all information backed up to iCloud, Apple’s cloud server, has the same level of encryption.
“iCloud content, as it exists in the customer’s account” can be handed over to law enforcement in response to a search warrant, Apple’s law enforcement guidelines read. That includes everything from detailed logs of the time, date and recipient of emails sent in the previous 25 days, to “stored photos, documents, contacts, calendars, bookmarks, Safari browsing history, maps search history, messages and iOS device backups.” The device backup on its own may include “photos and videos in the camera roll, device settings, app data, iMessage, business chat, SMS, and MMS [multimedia messaging service] messages and voicemail”, according to Apple.
Golbeck is an iPhone user but opts out of using iCloud because she worries about the system’s vulnerability to hacks and law enforcement requests. “I am one of those people who, if somebody asks if they should get an Android or an iPhone, I’m like, well, the iPhone is gonna be more protective than the Android is, but the bar is just very low,” she said.
“[Apple’s] hardware is the most secure on the market,” echoed Albert Fox Cahn, the founder of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project, a privacy rights organization. But the company’s policies around iCloud data also have him concerned: “I have to spend so much time opting out of things they’re trying to automatically push me towards using that are supposed to make my life better, but actually just put me at risk.
“As long as Apple continues to limit privacy to a question of hardware design rather than looking at the full life cycle of data and looking at the full spectrum of threats from government surveillance, Apple will be falling short,” he argued.
It’s a double standard that was already apparent in Apple’s stance in its most high-profile privacy case, the 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, Cahn said.
At the time, Apple refused to comply with an FBI request to create a backdoor to access the shooter’s locked iPhone. The company argued that a security bypass could be exploited by hackers as well as law enforcement officials in future cases.
But the company said in court filings that if the FBI hadn’t changed the phone’s iCloud password, it wouldn’t have needed to create a backdoor because all of the data would have been backed up and therefore available via subpoena.
In fact, the company said up until that point, Apple had already “provided all data that it possessed relating to the attackers’ accounts”.
“They were quite clear that they were weren’t willing to break into their own iPhones, but they were eager to actually break into the iCloud backup,” said Cahn.
Apple said in a statement it believed privacy was a fundamental human right, and argued users were always given the ability to opt out when the company collects their data.
“Our products include innovative privacy technologies and techniques designed to minimize how much of your data we – or anyone else – can access,” said an Apple spokesperson, Trevor Kincaid, adding that the company is proud of new privacy features such as app tracking transparency and mail privacy protection, which gives users more control over what information is shared with third parties.
“Whenever possible, data is processed on device, and in many cases we use end-to-end encryption. In instances when Apple does collect personal information, we’re clear and transparent about it, telling users how their data is being used and how to opt out anytime.”
Apple reviews all legal requests and is obligated to comply when they are valid, Kincaid added, but emphasized that the personal data Apple collects is limited to begin with. For instance, the company encrypts all health data and does not collect device location data.
People are ‘vastly unaware of what’s going on with their data’
Meanwhile, privacy advocacy organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) are urging Apple to implement end-to-end encryption for iCloud backups.
“When we say they’re better than everyone else, it’s more an indictment of what everyone else is doing, not necessarily Apple being particularly good,” EFF staff technologist Erica Portnoy said.
Portnoy gives Apple credit for its default protection of some services like iMessage. “In some ways, some of the defaults can be a bit better [than other companies], which isn’t nothing,” she said. But, she pointed out, messages are only secure if they’re being sent between iPhones.
“We know that unless messages are end-to-end encrypted, many people could have access to these communications,” said George, whose organization Fight for the Future launched a campaign to push Apple and other companies to better secure their messaging systems.
It’s a problem the company can fix by, for one, adopting a Google-backed messaging system called rich communication services (RCS), George argued. The system isn’t in and of itself end-to-end encrypted but supports encryption, unlike SMS and MMS, and would allow Apple to secure messages between iPhones and Androids, she said.
At the Code 2022 tech conference, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, indicated the company didn’t plan to support RCS, arguing that users haven’t said this is a priority. But they “don’t know what RCS is”, George said. “If Apple really doesn’t want to use RCS because it comes from Google, they could come to the table with other solutions to show a good faith effort at protecting people’s messages.”
Kincaid said consumers were not asking for another messaging service because there are many existing encrypted offerings, such as Signal. He also said that Apple is concerned RCS isn’t a modern standard or encrypted by default.
Golbeck, who has a TikTok channel about privacy, says people are “vastly unaware of what’s going on with their data” and “think they’ve got some privacy that they don’t”.
“We really don’t want our own devices being turned into surveillance tools for the state,” Golbeck said.
The Call for AI Regulation in Creative Industries
THE VOICE OF EU | Widespread concerns have surged among artists and creatives in various domains – country singers, authors, television showrunners, and musicians – voicing apprehension about the disruptive impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on their professions.
These worries have prompted an urgent plea to the U.S. government for regulatory action to protect their livelihoods from the encroaching threat posed by AI technology.
The Artists’ Plea
A notable rise in appeals to regulate AI has emerged, drawing attention to the potential risks AI poses to creative industries.
Thousands of letters, including those from renowned personalities like Justine Bateman and Lilla Zuckerman, underscore the peril AI models represent to the traditional structure of entertainment businesses.
The alarm extends to the music industry, expressed by acclaimed songwriter Marc Beeson, highlighting AI’s potential to both enhance and jeopardize an essential facet of American artistry.
Copyright Infringement Concerns
The primary contention arises from the unsanctioned use of copyrighted human works as fodder to train AI systems. The concerns about AI ingesting content from the internet without permission or compensation have sparked significant distress among artists and their representative entities.
While copyright laws explicitly protect works of human authorship, the influx of AI-generated content questions the boundaries of human contribution and authorship in an AI-influenced creative process.
The Fair Use Debate
Leading technology entities like Google, Microsoft, and Meta Platforms argue that their utilization of copyrighted materials in AI training aligns with the “fair use” doctrine—a limited use of copyrighted material for transformative purposes.
They claim that AI training isn’t aimed at reproducing individual works but rather discerning patterns across a vast corpus of content, citing precedents like Google’s legal victories in the digitization of books.
The Conflict and Seeking Resolution
Despite court rulings favoring tech companies in interpreting copyright laws regarding AI, voices like Heidi Bond, a former law professor and author, critique this comparison, emphasizing that AI developers often obtain content through unauthorized means.
Shira Perlmutter, the U.S. Register of Copyrights, acknowledges the Copyright Office’s pivotal role in navigating this complex landscape and determining the legitimacy of the fair use defense in the AI context.
The Road Ahead
The outpouring of concern from creative professionals and industry stakeholders emphasizes the urgency for regulatory frameworks to safeguard creative works while acknowledging the evolving role of AI in content creation.
The Copyright Office’s meticulous review of over 9,700 public comments seeks to strike a balance between innovation and the protection of creative rights in an AI-driven era. As the discussion continues, the convergence of legal precedents and ethical considerations remains a focal point for shaping the future landscape of AI in creative industries.
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How Vibertron Is Making Technology Consulting More Accessible To SMEs
SMEs Growth by Raza H. Qadri
By Clint Bailey – Sr. Business and Technology Editor ‘The Voice of EU‘
Vibertron Consulting, based in California, emerged on the scene just a year ago, as a subsidiary of Vibertron, and is rapidly gaining momentum as the preferred integrated technology and strategic consultancy platform in the United States and beyond.
At the helm of Vibertron Consulting is Raza H. Qadri (Ali), a highly accomplished individual with a diverse range of qualifications. With an MBA, a B.Sc. degree in Electrical Engineering, and a third degree in Computer Science, Qadri firmly believes in the importance of formal education as a cornerstone for building a robust and sustainable business.
Having amassed valuable experience across various industries including engineering, media, finance, and technology, as well as successfully founding three startups, Qadri is now putting his theories into practice. He has established a global business-to-business (B2B) remote work platform that offers integrated technology, marketing, and sales consultancy solutions specifically designed for small and medium-sized businesses.
With his expertise and a strong background in multiple fields, Qadri aims to empower businesses by providing comprehensive solutions tailored to their specific needs. The integrated approach of Vibertron Consulting allows clients to leverage technology, strategic marketing, and sales expertise to expand their operations and drive growth.
“An integrated platform is more of a complex business and go-to-market challenge rather than a technical one” Qadri explained.
“There are complexities associated with technical scale and optimization, but with today’s technology we can build a diverse platform using pre-existing components such as integrated services, even though the new technology trend is shifting back to data centre-based digital architecture.”
A Blend Between Marketplace & Integrated Managed Solutions
Founded in 2019, Vibertron presents itself as a hybrid technology company, providing clients with the opportunity to acquire comprehensive remote work, and consulting solutions. Facilitated by an internal database comprising approximately 1,500 thoroughly vetted specialists from the marketing, sales, and technology consulting industries, Vibertron ensures a high level of expertise and professionalism among its professionals. Notably, the specialists within the database possess a minimum requirement of a Master’s degree or 5-7 years of work experience in their respective fields. This stringent selection process ensures that clients can confidently engage with skilled professionals who possess the necessary qualifications and industry knowledge to deliver exceptional results.
“At Vibertron, we pride ourselves on working with top-tier professionals who exemplify integrity and professionalism. We prioritize building a team that upholds these values and ensures a positive client experience. Trust and excellence are at the core of our interactions, guaranteeing that our clients receive exceptional service every step of the way.” Qadri explained.
“To achieve this, we have created a B2B platform that is a blend between a marketplace and a managed professional solutions with two distinct models – one for one-time service buyers and one for clients looking for managed 360° marketing, sales, and technology solutions.”
Keeping It Simple
As stated on Vibertron’s official website, clients seeking integrated technology, marketing, and sales consultancy services can choose from three distinct plans: MCiHT™ (Technology), MCiM™ (Marketing), and MCiS (Sales). Each plan offers tailored solutions to cater to the specific needs and requirements of businesses in these domains.
“In addition to essential features like a social feed, messaging capabilities, and secure payment infrastructure (currently leveraging Stripe and Bank of America), Vibertron recognizes the importance of embracing emerging technologies such as AI and blockchain. By integrating these cutting-edge technologies, we aim to enhance our platform and deliver innovative solutions that meet the evolving needs of our clients.” Qadri said.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Hybrid Consulting Model
In line with its core objective, Vibertron is strategically preparing to implement an AI-based hybrid co-pilot. This advanced technology will assist clients in acquiring integrated solutions and conducting thorough due diligence. By leveraging blockchain technology, Vibertron aims to validate project credentials, enabling clients to confidently engage with top-tier professionals who possess a proven track record of successfully delivering similar work. Throughout the entire process, Vibertron remains fully committed to supporting clients every step of the way, ensuring a seamless and reliable experience.
“Our ultimate objective is to enhance trust within the consulting industry, recognizing the significant value consultants bring in accelerating progress. However, we have observed numerous distortions arising from market inefficiencies, resulting in a widespread lack of confidence in the role of consultants. By addressing these challenges and fostering transparency and reliability, we aim to rebuild trust and establish consultants as valuable assets for achieving business goals.” Qadri explained.
“We firmly believe that an improved consulting industry, potentially operating on a smaller scale, has the potential to serve as an economic engine, fostering accelerated growth within the global economy. By addressing the challenges and enhancing the efficiency of the consulting sector, we can create a conducive environment for rapid economic advancement on a global scale.”
A Unique Niche Between Consulting & Remote Working
Vibertron Consulting adopts a distinctive business model in which internal Project Managers, acting as Client liaisons, oversee and manage the complete technology, marketing, and sales operations of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). These dedicated Project Managers provide real-time monitoring of teams and deliver the utmost level of consulting service in their respective domains, ensuring that businesses receive exceptional support and guidance.
“We have developed our business suites with SMBs in mind. Consider the expenses and commitment involved in hiring full-time staff for technology or marketing roles. We have revolutionized this dynamic by offering business solutions that cost less than employing even a single full-time professional in these fields. This is a key factor that attracts SMB owners to choose our services for managing their entire technology, marketing, or sales operations. Furthermore, our team comprises highly skilled professionals, and the scope of our services is unmatched by any standard, adding to our appeal in the market.” Qadri added.
Presently, Vibertron operates in Europe, the UK, and the US and is actively engaged in securing seed funding for the consulting segment. Furthermore, the company intends to expand its products and workforce in the US, aiming to hire ten new employees by the end of this year, effectively doubling its team size.
Since its inception, the startup has experienced significant growth, progressing from a team of two to fourteen individuals, successfully completing over 650 projects. Additionally, Vibertron has served 75 LCE clients seeking consulting services in the domains of technology, marketing, and sales. Embracing the age-old adage that “cash is king” Qadri, a staunch proponent, emphasizes the importance of generating revenue at the earliest stages of the business, fostering sustainability and facilitating further development.
“By prioritizing revenue generation, we aim to deliver enhanced value to customers, provide a better quality of life to our employees, and enable investors to recognize the long-term viability and sustainability of our business model.” he said.
“In the current business landscape, startups driven by growth objectives must adhere to fundamental principles such as maintaining healthy cash flow, establishing stable operational and burn rates, and relying on revenue-backed valuations. These foundational principles serve as crucial guidelines for us towards ensuring the long-term viability and success.”
Funding & Growth
Qadri added, “While securing funding remains an ongoing process for us, as it does for many startups, our position as a profitable business enables us to effectively navigate the transitional period between being considered “too early” and reaching the ideal stage of development. This financial stability provides us with the necessary resilience and flexibility to sustain growth and seize opportunities as they arise.”.
Photo credits: Vibertron.
By Clint Bailey, Senior Business News Editor at ‘Voice of EU’ as well as co-editor of EU-20 magazine. Have a tip? Send him a DM at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Innovative Kite Sail Technology Startup Paves the Way for Greener Shipping Industry | “EU20”
- Beyond The Sea’s Revolutionary Kite Sail Technology
- A Game-Changer for the Maritime Industry
- Expanding Possibilities and Environmental Commitments
Overcoming Challenges and Seeking Government Support
In response, startups like Beyond The Sea are revolutionizing the industry with their innovative kite sail technology. With the ability to reduce fuel consumption by up to 20%, these kite sails have the potential to transform the way ships and vessels operate.
Beyond The Sea’s Revolutionary Kite Sail Technology
In southwest France’s Arcachon Bay, Beyond The Sea conducted successful tests of their blue inflatable kite sail. The company’s founder, Yves Parlier, combined his sailing expertise with artificial intelligence and automated traction systems to develop a highly efficient kite sail. This innovative technology adapts the sail’s position based on wind conditions, resulting in significant fuel savings.
A Game-Changer for the Maritime Industry
The impact of kite sails on the maritime industry cannot be understated. With approximately 100,000 merchant ships and 4.6 million fishing trawlers worldwide, the potential for widespread adoption of this technology is enormous. The Wind Ship association predicts that by 2030, the market for kite sails could be worth four billion euros, with around 1,400 vessels equipped with this sustainable solution.
READ MORE: ALL ABOUT ‘BEYOND THE SEA’
Expanding Possibilities and Environmental Commitments
Beyond The Sea plans to further develop their kite sail technology. In upcoming tests off the waters of Norway, Japan, and the Mediterranean, they will explore larger kite sizes, aiming to reach 800 square meters within four years. Meanwhile, other companies like Airseas and Chantiers de l’Atlantique are also pioneering alternative solutions, such as larger kites for larger ships and rigid sails for ocean liners.
Overcoming Challenges and Seeking Government Support
While the wind propulsion sector shows promise, challenges remain. The cost of heavy fuel oil and the need for environmental regulations are key considerations. Lobbying for wind to be recognized as a fuel, the sector is working closely with the French government to create a supportive regulatory framework.
Recognizing wind as a viable fuel source could not only accelerate the adoption of wind propulsion technology but also create over 30,000 new jobs by 2030.
The innovative kite sail technology developed by Beyond The Sea and other companies presents a game-changing opportunity for the maritime industry. With the ability to significantly reduce fuel consumption and emissions, these sustainable solutions align with the industry’s growing focus on environmental responsibility.
By harnessing the power of the wind, the maritime sector can chart a course toward a greener and more sustainable future.
We Can’t Thank You Enough For Your Support!
— By Johnathan Elf, Contributor ‘Voice of EU’
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