At CES, Facebook argues it’s simply as excellent on personal privacy as Apple


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Facebook personal privacy chief Erin Egan (2nd from left) and Apple personal privacy chief Jane Horvath (center), talk personal privacy approach.

Angela Lang/CNET

This story belongs to CES 2020, our total protection of the display room flooring and the most popular brand-new tech devices around.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has actually called personal privacy a “fundamental human right,” while Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has actually stated “the future is private.” At a CES 2020 panel conversation Tuesday that included executives from both business, personal privacy ended up being a boasting right. 

Facebook was represented by Erin Egan, its chief personal privacy officer for policy, while Jane Horvath, Apple’s worldwide personal privacy senior director, represented the iPhone maker. They were signed up with at a personal privacy roundtable by Rebecca Slaughter, a Democratic commissioner at the Federal Trade Commission, and Susan Shook, Procter & Gamble’s worldwide personal privacy officer. 

Privacy is a hot subject, so it’s not a surprise the session was loaded. About 470 individuals crowded into a space that usually seats 450, while 100 more were rerouted to a various space where they might see the procedures on video. 

On numerous celebrations, Egan stated Facebook was simply as protective of individuals’s information as Apple is. Apple has actually utilized personal privacy security as a selling point, and whenever Horvath discussed among Apple’s personal privacy procedures, Egan advised the crowd that Facebook had the very same practices in location. But she could not leave an essential stress in Facebook’s service design: Its main earnings originate from marketing that depends on user information. Apple’s originate from sales of devices. 

“At Facebook we have a different business model than Apple, but both business models are privacy protected,” Egan stated. “We’re very committed to protecting privacy and our advertising business model.”

Privacy has actually ended up being a main problem at CES after years of reaction versus tech giants like Google, Amazon and Facebook over how individuals’s individual information is shared. Companies have actually heard the message and while the tech conference still concentrates on devices, lots of tech business have actually begun utilizing CES to speak about personal privacy. 

Horvath’s look marked the very first time given that 1992 that an Apple executive was a main individual at the program. Last year at the yearly tech event, nevertheless, Apple plastered a huge privacy-focused signboard over the convention center. 

On Monday, Facebook likewise utilized CES to reveal an upgrade to its Privacy Checkup tool. The social media network is demoing the tool at the conference. 

Because Apple’s service design isn’t concentrated on marketing, it does not count on individuals’s information. That lets the business be more privacy-friendly. But Apple does utilize information from individuals’s gadgets, like utilizing discussions with Siri to enhance its expert system innovation.

Still, Apple does not deal with the very same level of public analysis over personal privacy that Facebook does. The social media network paid a record $5 billion fine to the FTC in 2019 for numerous personal privacy infractions. At the panel, Facebook was figured out to show that it’s simply as excellent on personal privacy as Apple is.

“Everything that Jane [Horvath] stated at Apple totally resonates with how we approach personal privacy at Facebook, so I do not wish to duplicate that personal privacy by style,” Egan stated, quickly after Horvath explained how Apple has a group of personal privacy engineers and attorneys designated to deal with brand-new items it develops. 

Horvath likewise explained Apple’s practices for lessening information collection, like restricting its facial acknowledgment algorithms to gadgets instead of running the information on Apple’s servers. 

“All of your devices are smart, and know who’s in a photo, but Apple doesn’t,” the Apple personal privacy chief stated. 


Facebook personal privacy chief Erin Egan regularly compared its personal privacy practices to Apple’s throughout the panel.

Angela Lang/CNET

Until last September, Facebook had actually been needing individuals to pull out of its facial acknowledgment tool, which it initially presented in 2017. Egan contested Horvath’s point about keeping information on gadgets instead of the business’s servers, arguing that it isn’t always more personal due to the fact that it’s saved in your area. 

“It’s a different service we offer, but that doesn’t mean that one is more privacy protected than the other,” Egan stated. “We are committed to privacy, we build privacy by design in all of our products, just like Jane.”

The default distinction

An essential distinction in between Apple’s and Facebook’s approaches to personal privacy, nevertheless, depends on default settings. After Egan promoted Facebook’s freshly upgraded Privacy Checkup tool, Slaughter, the FTC commissioner, challenged the business. 

Research has actually revealed that individuals do not alter their default settings, and it’s the very same for personal privacy settings.

“I am concerned about a universe where the entirety of the burden to protect one’s data lies with the consumers,” Slaughter stated. “Even if consumers can walk through a privacy checkup, the amount of information that you have to process to figure out what is happening with your data is untenable for most consumers.”  


Apple’s Jane Horvath talked about how the business has settings to make it possible for personal privacy by default on its gadgets.

Angela Lang/CNET

When Horvath explained Apple’s privacy-by-default method, it marked among the couple of times when the Facebook agent could not state her business’s practice is the very same. 

Apple’s personal privacy chief kept in mind that the business utilizes random identifiers in a lot of cases. Even if the business gathers information about its users, the details isn’t connected to an individual or a gadget. 

“We use differential privacy to inject noise into the dataset,” Horvath stated, describing how the business randomizes user information.. “So that is one way that we’re protecting the consumer, without making them make a choice.” 

Apple utilized to gather information from random Siri audio by default however altered that to opt-out after The Guardian exposed that human specialists were listening to individuals’s delicate discussions.

Apple and Facebook have actually regularly clashed on personal privacy concerns. Last January, Apple withdrawed Facebook designers’ gain access to to iPhone users after a TechCrunch report exposed the social media network abused the opportunity to collect research study information from teenagers. 

In September, Facebook released a declaration on how it tracks user areas due to the fact that Apple’s iOS 13 upgrade would begin needing authorization whenever an app was utilizing an individual’s place information. 

The personal privacy one-upmanship left some panelists not impressed.

Privacy wasn’t appropriately secured, concluded Slaughter, the FTC commissioner, and will stay a continuous fight as innovation develops.

Said Slaughter, “The amount of data that is collected about any individual in this room — I don’t think anyone could tell us directly who has what data about them and how it is used.”