“To help identify and prevent fraud, information about how you use your device, including the approximate number of phone calls or emails you send and receive, will be used to compute a device trust score when you attempt a purchase,“ the text reads.
Venture Beat notes that this new text “appears in the iTunes Store & Privacy windows of iOS and tvOS devices,” observing that this is not a run-of-the-mill update:
“This provision is unusual for a few reasons, perhaps the least of which is that Apple TVs don’t make phone calls or send emails. As such, it’s unclear how Apple computes the device trust score for iTunes purchases made through Apple TVs, but there’s other potential ‘information about how you use your device’ that could be scraped and abstracted.”
The outlet continued:
“It’s equally unclear how recording and tracking the number of calls or emails traversing a user’s iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch would better enable Apple to verify a device’s identity than just checking its unique device identifier. Every one of these devices has both hardcoded serial numbers and advertising identifiers, while iPhones and cellular iPads also have SIM cards with other device-specific codes.”
In a statement to Venture Beat, Apple said: “[T]he only data it receives is the numeric score, which is computed on-device using the company’s standard privacy abstracting techniques, and retained only for a limited period, without any way to work backward from the score to user behavior.”
The company also said that “No calls, emails, or other abstractions of that data are shared with Apple.”
Apple has insisted it does not share private user data and has had a long, public battle with the FBI over its refusal to submit to demands they violate their encryption technology.
Nevertheless, some social media users compared the concept of a “trust score” to an episode of the dystopian Netflix show Black Mirror. That episode details a society where people rank each other, generating scores that affect their ability to buy homes, use transport, and even engage with other individuals.
This is dangerous. Anyone seen Black Mirror – Nosedive?
Apple will log about how many ‘phone calls or emails you send and receive’ to give your device a ‘trust score’ https://t.co/NH8YDiYdmW
— Stuart Musgrave (@stuart_musgrave) September 19, 2018
Apple is quietly giving people ‘trust scores’ based on their iPhone data – iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and Apple TV data is used to see how trustworthy you are, similar to a scenario in the dystopian series Black Mirror https://t.co/zscvOA1L8f
— We Go Deep Homeboy (@TinFoilHatCast) September 20, 2018
WTF? Apple is quietly giving people Black Mirror-style ‘trust scores’ using their iPhone data https://t.co/odS5uzIDtX
— Michel Hubert matr. 6404 (@MichelHubert2) September 21, 2018
— Deep Bro (@DeepBro2) September 21, 2018
In real life, China has imposed a social credit score that has already restricted the ability of citizens to function, including banning travel. It can also be used to ban low-ranking people from using dating apps, attending schools, and luxury hotels.
While Apple’s new ranking system is far from anything that dystopian, its adoption is yet another sign of the ubiquitous technology and data analysis of consumers wielded by monolithic tech companies in modern life.