The Meta-Data Edition Thursday, September 29, 2016

Apple Logs Your iMessage Contacts — And May Share Them With Police, by Sam Biddle, The Intercept

Every time you type a number into your iPhone for a text conversation, the Messages app contacts Apple servers to determine whether to route a given message over the ubiquitous SMS system, represented in the app by those déclassé green text bubbles, or over Apple’s proprietary and more secure messaging network, represented by pleasant blue bubbles, according to the document. Apple records each query in which your phone calls home to see who’s in the iMessage system and who’s not.

This log also includes the date and time when you entered a number, along with your IP address — which could, contrary to a 2013 Apple claim that “we do not store data related to customers’ location,” identify a customer’s location. Apple is compelled to turn over such information via court orders for systems known as “pen registers” or “trap and trace devices,” orders that are not particularly onerous to obtain, requiring only that government lawyers represent they are “likely” to obtain information whose “use is relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.” Apple confirmed to The Intercept that it only retains these logs for a period of 30 days, though court orders of this kind can typically be extended in additional 30-day periods, meaning a series of monthlong log snapshots from Apple could be strung together by police to create a longer list of whose numbers someone has been entering.

iMessage, Metadata, And Law Enforcement: What You Need To Know!, by Rene Ritchie, iMore

Doing dispatch properly is hard, and so engineers did what engineers do, and started collecting data to try and make it better. Because of privacy concerns, though, they only keep that data live for 30 days.

My guess is, fresh data is also the only useful data for this type of bug fixing.

iMessage Contact Lookups Are Stored By Apple For 30 Days, by John Gruber, Daring Fireball

Maybe I’m missing something but it seems like Apple would be better off flushing these logs at much shorter intervals.

Tap Tap

Danny Meyer Just Single-Handedly Made The Apple Watch Relevant To The Hospitality Industry, by Daniela Galarza, Eater

When Meyer’s 30-year-old Union Square Cafe reopens in Manhattan next month, every floor manager and sommelier will be wearing an Apple Watch. And when a VIP walks through the front door, someone orders a bottle of wine, a new table is seated, a guest waits too long to order her or his drink, or a menu item runs out, every manager will get an alert via the tiny computer attached to their wrist.

Closed Source

Facial Recognition, Differential Privacy, And Trade-Offs In Apple's Latest OS Releases, by Gennie Gebhart and Starchy Grant and Erica Portnoy, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Differential privacy is still a new, fairly experimental pursuit, and Apple is putting it to the test against millions of users' private data. And without any transparency into the methods employed, the public and the research community have no way to verify the implementation—which, just like any other initial release, is very likely to have flaws. Although differential privacy is meant to mathematically safeguard against such flaws in theory, the details of such a large roll-out can blow away those guarantees. Apple's developer materials indicate that it's well aware of these requirements—but with Apple both building and utilizing its datasets without any oversight, we have to rely on it to self-police.

Apple Cares

Stan (And Eclaire) : The Blind Apple Employee Who Upgraded My iPhone, by Jeff Reifman

After showing up at an Apple store to sign up for an upgrade, staff told me I’d have to order one online and return with it. So, that’s what I did. But somehow I knew it still wouldn’t be easy. Apple and T-Mobile’s systems don’t really talk to each other as well as they do with other carriers.

In fact, my upgrade was so complicated that at one point, five blue-shirted Apple Store employees encircled me.

One was blind.

Reflections On Hissgate, by Stephen Hackett, 512 Pixels

While it was wild to see that view counter climb so high, it came with a price. Seeing the replies from people who just wanted to jab at me and reading articles that took my honest accounting of what happened and twisting it defend Apple at my expense was hurtful.

The whole thing was just … exhausting. I’m happy its already out of the news cycle. I don’t regret reporting my experience, but had I known things were going to get so far out of hand, I’m not sure I would have done it.

Gold Rush

Bitmoji? Kimoji? Digital Stickers Trump Plain Old Emojis, by Joanna Stern, Wall Street Journal

After surging in Asia over the past few years, digital-sticker mania is spreading across the rest of the world like an out-of control tween slumber party. Stand up and say it proudly with me: Hello, I’m a grown adult and I use stickers to communicate my feelings.

If you really don’t know what I’m talking about, don’t worry; you will soon. Apple’s new iMessage app store, introduced just a few weeks ago, is now home to more than 1,250 sticker packs, according to market researcher Sensor Tower Inc. Last month, Twitter released its own promoted sticker selection. Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Google’s new Allo, they’ve all got ’em.


Apple's W1 Chip Greatly Improves Battery Life In The New Beats Solo3 Wireless Headphones, by Brent Dirks, AppAdvice

The Solo3 can go for up to 40 hours of music playback on a single charge. That’s compared to just 12 hours of playback in the Solo2 Wireless. Apple’s special technology seems to be behind the large majority of that increase as the battery is more than likely the same in both models.

Why 'Transfer Purchases' Doesn't Copy Apps To iTunes When Backing Up Your iPhone, by Jeffery Battersby, Macworld

App thinning is a great way to save space on your iOS device, but from Apple’s perspective a thinned app is not a complete app that can be installed on all devices, so they don’t get transferred with iTunes Transfer Purchases option.

Nuance Dragon Professional Individual For Mac 6.0 Review: Better Performance And Accuracy, by Kirk McElhearn, Macworld

I’ve been using Dragon 6 for several weeks, and I’ve been impressed by this accuracy. I would be hard pressed to find an improvement of a double-digit percentage, but I find that I’m correcting fewer small words: prepositions, adverbs, or articles. That may not sound like much, but if you dictate often, you understand that correcting those little words takes as much time as any other correction.

Review: Leaf, A Creative & Fresh Take On The Twitter Experience For iOS, by Greg Barbosa, 9to5Mac

Leaf takes artistic liberties in instilling a new Twitter timeline experience. I’ve spent the past week testing Leaf daily to see if it could replace my daily Twitter clients, and I have to say I’m impressed.


App Store Search Ads Begin Rolling Out To Developers, Apple Offering $100 Promo Credit, by Chance Miller, 9to5Mac

Apple also touts the ease of using Search Ads, saying that they can be set up in “just a few easy steps,” while also noting that they offer full developer control.


Time To Kill Security Questions—or Answer Them With Lies, by Lily Hay Newman, Wired

Yahoo’s data debacle highlights how those innocuous-seeming questions remain a weak link in our online authentication systems. Ask the security community about security questions, and they’ll tell you that they should be abolished—and that until they are, you should never answer them honestly.

Internal 'Clock' Makes Some People Age Faster And Die Younger – Regardless Of Lifestyle, by Hannah Devlin, The Guardian

A higher biological age, regardless of actual age, was consistently linked to an earlier death, the study found. For the 5% of the population who age fastest, this translated to a roughly 50% greater than average risk of death at any age.

Intriguingly, the biological changes linked to ageing are potentially reversible, raising the prospect of future treatments that could arrest the ageing process and extend the human lifespan.