This week in data – 14th June

Apple is in hot water over data issues in China.

According to the New York Times, police in Cangnan County claim to have found Apple employees who had illegally acquired personal data – though the police say 20 of the 22 worked for companies that sell Apple products, or are Apple contractors.

Apple has been riding a wave of popularity in China, where a growing middle class is spending more money on smartphones – but the sale of personal data is becoming a trend. China tried 361 cases involving the sale of personal data in 2016, more than doubling from 2015.

One case found 10 employees of an Apple contractor had personal data from more than 80,000 users in their possession.

Meanwhile in Britain, Prime Minister Theresa May’s claim for encryption methods to be banned – in order to better fight terrorism – have come under scrutiny. New Scientist points out the downsides of this approach: not only would information like credit card details be more susceptible to theft, but the creation of a “master key” to get around encryption would be like a holy grail for hackers.

Money Control expands on that point: the idea of a “back door access point” for authorities relies on the idea that anyone controlling that back door is incorruptible.

“Cryptographic locks don’t just protect our mundane communications, it is the reason why thieves can’t impersonate your car’s keyless ignition system, it is the reason you can bank online and it is the basis for all trust and security in the 21st century,” it says.

In other news…

Here’s a bit of a shocking statistic: a new study warns that 70% of smartphone apps share your information with third-party services. Over at Gizmolead, the publication cites a survey from IMDEA Networks in Spain, which developed an app of its own to analyse traffic and determine which apps sell data.

The types of information being transferred varies from app to app: some send GPS location data, while others even track users’ activity on other websites. But while not all this data is sensitive, the authors say many trackers are able to create “digital profiles” of users by combining two pieces of information – like GPS data, and mobile contacts.

The authors admit this is a tough situation: blocking information from leaving the smartphone can stop apps from working properly, which means it’s likely this information will continue to be tracked. Ultimately, it says, “transparency, education and strong regulatory frameworks are key” to ensuring safety.


A trust revolution is coming. That’s according to author and columnist Rachel Botsman, who recently told an ASIC conference that trust in institutions is falling – mostly because institutional trust wasn’t designed for a digital age. As a result, she argues, institutions have a chance to earn trust through new ways: by becoming inclusive, dynamic and personalised.

Until next week.

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