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Your next iPhone may know more about you than you do. What is Apple’s new AI capable of, and how does Apple reassure its customers that their private life is safe and secure?

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Artificial intelligence (AI) has taken the tech world by storm. With Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Snapchat, and others all integrating a form of AI into their systems, Apple found themselves lagging behind. Now, with Apple’s recent AI announcement, they’ve officially entered the race in a big way. Apple’s home-grown AI, it’s partnership with OpenAI, and its integration with Apple iPhones, computers and other devices is groundbreaking. But it also gives rise to massive personal privacy concerns.

What is Apple’s AI capable of, and how does Apple reassure its customers that their private information is safe and secure? While security and privacy have always been a selling point for Apple products, what will they do with unprecedented access to an unlimited flow of surveillance and collection of personal information from the devices you use every day?

Your privacy… going, going, gone?

Apple promotes its new AI (called Apple Intelligence) as “personal intelligence built into your devices to help you write, express yourself, and get things done effortlessly, every day. All while setting a brand-new standard for privacy in AI.” It’s the first real application of AI as a personal assistant – built into devices you use every day. Naturally, and rightly so, watchdogs for personal privacy and security are alarmed at the risks with this emerging technology.

The cause for concern with the new Apple Intelligence is not just the amount of detail they will learn about you, but who has access to that data. Your phone, and Apple, will potentially know more about you than you do.

Apple Intelligence will be able to scan and interpret all your photos, making it easy to find a photo of concert tickets, driver’s license, recipes, and vacation spots with a simple request. It will be able to identify and recognize your children, spouse, and friends in your photos along with their role in your life. There are concerns about access to photos, videos, and voice where deep-fake videos and voice cloning have popped up across social media and are now used by scammers and online predators.

Siri will be supercharged due to the power OpenAI utilizes. With personal context and access to everyday life activities, Siri will use OpenAI to access calendar events, messages, and other apps to pull together information for your benefit. If you have an appointment for a meeting in the office, and then a piano recital for your daughter an hour after, Siri will plan each out accordingly and access Apple Maps to notify you when you need to leave to get to your next event on time.

If you ask when your mom’s flight is going to land, Siri will pull up the information and notify you exactly when the flight takes off and lands with the information gathered in the email. Then Siri can remind you when it is time to leave to pick her up while also taking live traffic into account. If you forgot what dinner plans you made with your mom, Siri will access your messages and pull up the text to remind you of where and when the dinner reservation is taking place.

As useful as the tools will be, the obvious question here is, if the AI can see and interpret your photos, emails, texts, calendars, and everything else, who has access to all your private information and daily activity? Can you trust them – or the other companies they affiliate with such as OpenAI? Will the government be able to get access to all this data anytime they want?

Clearly, questions about security and privacy remain. We are literally hitting just the tip of the iceberg with what Apple Intelligence will learn about us, and what it will do for us.

Voices of concern

Some of the benefits of this AI integration into your personal life might sound pretty good right now, but there is always a cost associated with such groundbreaking technology. If you’re worried about your privacy and security, you’re not alone. In fact most of the tech world is voicing their concerns about this Apple-AI integration.

Elon Musk has openly stated, “It’s patently absurd that Apple isn’t smart enough to make their own AI yet is somehow capable of ensuring that OpenAI will protect your security and privacy! Apple has no clue what’s actually going on once they hand your data over to Open AI. They’re selling you down the river.” Musk has also gone so far as to consider a ban of Apple devices from his businesses as a security measure with the announced Apple-OpenAI partnership.

Musk voiced concern that Microsoft, which owns half of OpenAI, has disbanded its ethics oversight division. “There is no regulatory oversight of AI, which is a major problem. I’ve been calling for AI safety regulation for over a decade!” Regulation may be the only hope of keeping our information private, but with AI being so new to our world, that may be years out. Of course, it’s highly likely government regulators won’t fully understand this and may cause more harm than good.

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, stated that AI is, “the greatest technology humanity has yet developed” and this uncharted territory is thrilling yet should be carefully walked. Altman continued, “I’m particularly worried that these models could be used for large-scale disinformation. I think people should be happy that we are a little bit scared of this.”

Apple says its AI will “usher in a new era of privacy”. The company says it will ask you for permission to use your private data before both Apple and OpenAI will have access to it, but once you give permission, your information is fair game. Apple claims that data from Apple Intelligence will “mostly stay on your device itself. If it needs to go to the cloud (and access ChatGPT), it will be on Apple’s secure server, not stored by OpenAI.”

Security professionals will be watching closely to see how this and other concerns will play out.

Recommendations

Apple Intelligence is deeply integrated into iOS 18, iPadOS 18, and macOS Sequoia that is due to be released in Fall 2024. It will only be available on iPhone 15 Pro, iPhone 15 Pro Max, and newer iPhone models, plus iPad and Mac computers with M1 and later.

At this point, consider waiting to upgrade to iOS 18 with Apple Intelligence (If you have an iPhone 15 or newer). If you end up having to buy a new iPhone, you may want to consider buying an older model. If you must have the newest iPhone when it’s released later this year, or next year, consider turning off specific Apple Intelligence features you aren’t comfortable with, or disable it altogether.

For the next couple of years while all this new AI technology unfolds, be cautious and don’t give up your privacy rights. Realize that AI is not going away, and that all smart devices including Android will eventually have built-in AI. Be careful about giving Apple or any other tech company permission to use AI to monitor, track, and use you or your family’s personal information.

Whether we like it or not, AI will increasingly play a larger role in our lives. As it unfolds, we must continue to do everything we can to protect our privacy, our freedom, and not allow big tech or government to access, monitor, or control our digital lives.

 

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