In the current technology climate, privacy is every bit a commodity as the latest consumer gadget. With more and more everyday tech users understanding the ramifications of turning over control of their information to a corporation or the government, there’s big money to be made in guaranteeing that no one is looking over our shoulders.
Unfortunately, a lot of what drives the innovation behind our favorite new hardware or the latest app comes from violating our privacy…sort of. The autocorrect keyboard and predictive keyboard technology, for example, are powered largely from collected data from users’ own interactions with their devices.
But what if there was a way to collect data about how users play with their gadgets without ever really knowing who that person was and what they were doing? There is. Thanks to research from Microsoft that is now being put into use by Apple in the upcoming iOS version, tech companies can harvest the need-to-know information in a collective pool of data that has no ability to single out an individual user.
That’s a huge oversimplification of the process behind different privacy, and there’s a really great explanation of the technical side of things here. What’s really important for the average consumer to understand is why we all benefit from this level of security.
Apple, Google, and other tech companies have faced stiff opposition for their stances on protecting their customers’ privacy from government intrusion, even while admitting that they themselves gleaned data all the time in order to improve their products for consumers. Differential privacy basically takes all of the user data and swirls in it a big mixing bowl before anyone can ever get their hands on it. Tech engineers can still figure out how consumers respond to innovation, but can no longer put an individual’s name on any single behavior.