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Apple says ‘privacy is a fundamental human right’ to Congress

Apple has formally responded to the US government’s concerns about privacy issues and whether Apple’s data collection policies are in any way hampering the privacy of the citizens at large. Apple’s director of federal government affairs, Timothy Powderly cleared the company’s views on the issue in response to queries posed by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

In his letter dated Aug. 7, Timothy explained how Apple’s entire data collection policy is based on the central theme of privacy being considered as a fundamental human right; and that for Apple, its customers are never seen as their products.

Timothy also reiterated Apple, unlike its competitors never collects identifiable user data that are then made available to third-party agencies for targeted marketing efforts. This is something that is enshrined right within the company’s design philosophy so that Apple’s products or services, be it mobiles or PCs, operating system or applications are designed in a manner that collection of user data is the bare minimum.

The company also assured the lawmaker any data that is eventually collected is done in a manner that those aren’t identifiable with the user. Further, Apple resorts to on-device processing to ensure there is minimal need of the data to be transported to the company servers for processing.

Timothy also responded to specific queries about the keyword ‘Hey Siri’ and how the device microphone is put to use. To that effect, Timothy said that each Siri utterances are indeed sent back to Apple’s servers and are dealt with in a manner as specified in the company’s privacy policy. Also, users do have the option to toggle off Siri and Dictation if they so wish.

The questions raised by the Energy and Commerce committee official have no doubt been driven be privacy concerns post the several data breach scandals that have surfaced in the recent past. Major among those is, of course, the Cambridge Analytica episode that seems to have had Facebook in the loop as well as the manner the US presidential elections seems to have been rigged by Russian agents with Facebook again acting as the medium in between.

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It now remains to be seen if the Energy and Commerce committee is satisfied with Apple’s response or if things would go for further discussions.