Last week, I mentioned to a friend of mine that I am an active owner and user of an iPad, and her first question wasn’t the expected “Oh, how do you like it?” or “Oh, shiny, can I play with it?”, but rather, it was simply “Do you use it in public?”. Her primary concern wasn’t of me getting mugged on the street or anything of that nature. In fact, she was most concerned about my privacy, and what a larger screen would mean for passersby on buses, cafes and parks.
While I have few concerns over random people peeking over me while watching the latest Top Gear or reading my eBooks, other privacy issues do bug me. In an age of Twitter, Facebook & Foursquare, privacy has taken a backseat to convenience and connectivity at your fingertips. With our iPads and iPhones becoming our professional lifelines outside of the office, can we trust these devices to safeguard our personal and corporate information? Can we trust Apple? In my opinion, the answer is maybe. However, the real answer is a lot more complex.
Apple has certainly come a long way to protect personal data since the first iPhone. They’ve introduced on-device encryption, auto data erasure on failed passcode attempts, and Find My iPhone to find lost devices; there will even be more security features to come in iOS 4.2. However, many of these features has its fatal flaws, and can ultimately fail users.
What Apple Fails to Do
My main security gripes involve security features that are merely cosmetic or optional or lenient. Two that are top of mind are Auto Data Wipe and Find My iPhone. My primary concern with Auto Data Wipe is simply that it’s an optional setting. In order for security to be top of mind and taken seriously, core security features such as data wipe can not be optional.
On the surface, Find My iPhone and Remote Wipe are also fantastic security features. However, both are only available as part of the MobileMe suite. If Apple were truly serious in protecting user and data security, they would offer these services freely to all iOS devices. Instead, at $109 per year subscription, they have clearly signaled that user security is a two-tiered system and shouldn’t be offered to everyone. This is simply unacceptable.
What Apple Does Well
So Apple dropped the ball on a few core security features, but they do a few other things well. Apple boasts of 256-bit AES on-device encryption, and this goes a long way to protecting user data. It’s integral to iOS, and can’t be turned off. They’ve also incorporated text-based passwords to strengthen the unlocking mechanism, as well as many other enterprise level security features.
As we continue to integrate our iPads into both our professional and personal lives, our data privacy will grow as a concern. Is privacy top of mind for you? If so, do you think Apple is doing a good job protecting our personal information? Or could they do more? Let us know in the comments below!
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