Apple and Privacy

Apr 28, 2021

If Apple really cared about iOS privacy they would give the user to ability to block any app from reaching the internet. A lot of the iOS apps I used have no need to ping the internet but they all do to gather metrics and do who-knows-what.

Rather than create a complex and unenforceable privacy policy Apple should just let users block the app from using the internet. Or require a certificate to access the internet and don't allow it if the fundamental use of the app isn't to connect to the internet. There is no need for single player games to hit the internet all the time.

I use Little Snitch on the Mac and everything f**king program tries to connect to the internet. I block them all and only a handful fail so, yeah, they don't need to.

If Apple really cared about my privacy they would do this.

Conny Torneus Apr 28, 2021
Aaand that is one of the reasons I never buy apple products.

In this case of security & privacy I believe you are correct. All those apps in Ios do gather and send data back to Apple with the purpose of "improving" security, which is a bit funny as the method used is unencrypted and can in the end cause more harm than good.

To quote Han-solo "I got a bad feeling about this". I think Apple is loosing it.

Sidney Small Apr 28, 2021
"Aaand that is one of the reasons I never buy apple products."

Is Google any better? Do they allow you to block an app from reaching the internet?

Poetic Pee Apr 28, 2021
Nice to see that you start to appreciate privacy.

Patrick Apr 29, 2021
I find only one reason to use Apple phones: you can take good pictures.

NRG Apr 29, 2021
Hokey software and tiny sensors are no match for a good DSLR at your side, kid.

Henry Apr 29, 2021
Control over your own system seems out of date nowadays.

Imagine reading a book and having 20 people peeking over your shoulder to see what you are doing. Just plain ridiculous.

A few months back a friend needed a new laptop and was wondering about the OS. In the end, Mac and Windows were rejected due to limitations to privacy and control over the system.

I would never have believed that these would be valid decision criteria 20years ago.

Henry Apr 29, 2021
...and I am not implying that Linux is "just" great. #noTroll

Conny Torneus Apr 29, 2021
My apologies @Sidney Small. Ron's post triggered a bit of my own personal experience with Apple, but I am not in any way trying to step on anyone's toes.

"Is google any better?" "Do they allow you to block an app from reaching the internet?"

I was under the impression Ron was writing about his Computer. So with that said I would say the questions are irrelevant, on my computer google is a search engine on a Web page at best and has no business blocking my apps.

I'll assume you're referring to mobiles and tablets. Then I would pretty much say yes, but not by much and my reasoning behind that boils down to Android being open source while Apple is not. They say it's for security reasons which I'm not buying. And no, google doesn't block apps, especially not their own so in that sense google is up there with Apple. Only way to give you back total control over your mobile/tablet is via customized OS via XDA or develop one yourself.

Dan Cunning Apr 29, 2021
100% agreed. Apple does allow you to block an app from using your cell network. I hoped that denying an app "Local Network" access (new in iOS 14) would prevent it from accessing WiFi, but it does not.

Now I just hope it's on Apple's roadmap.

Jesse Apr 29, 2021
I do think being able to block apps from using the internet would be great! That said, Apple does seem to be a leader for privacy in the mobile space. I would be willing to give a linux mobile a go if I could have a complete experience. I hope that one day that happens, but until you ACTUALLY have control over your OS, everything is still beholden to mega corps. Google really has data collection and personal information as their core business. I just can't reconcile their entire structure against personal privacy.

Jesse Apr 29, 2021
I do think being able to block apps from using the internet would be great! That said, Apple does seem to be a leader for privacy in the mobile space. I would be willing to give a linux mobile a go if I could have a complete experience. I hope that one day that happens, but until you ACTUALLY have control over your OS, everything is still beholden to mega corps. Google really has data collection and personal information as their core business. I just can't reconcile their entire structure against personal privacy.

Rado Apr 29, 2021
Baby steps. Why do you single out the imperfect company which is so far ahead of the competition? As a fan I'm embarrassed by their flaws/bugs, but compared to the rest, there is no comparison.

Gay Trans Bowser Apr 29, 2021
Apple doesn't care about privacy. Apple has never cared about privacy.

Sidney Small Apr 29, 2021
Apple cares about privacy as long as it doesn't effect their bottom line but it's mostly PR.  If they really cared the review process would be better. Right now they make the life of legit developers (like me) a living hell but scam after scam get into the store.

Bungo Bill Apr 29, 2021
Privacy is necessary for Apple to address now....they have a portfolio of health tech coming that will live and die on the privacy vine. Build/maintain trust before they start dealing with "real" personal data (PHI). "Real" data means real laws protecting the data (HIPAA, etc).

Delores (not that one) Apr 30, 2021
@Rado: "compared to the rest, there is no comparison"

That's going straight into my quotes file. :)

Someone Apr 30, 2021
@Ron: And what about your programs and games? Do they connect to the internet? ;-)

dada Apr 30, 2021
But people can't handle so much control. All we need to do is to avoid embarrassing paranoia and all we need to know is that Apple, Microsoft, Google have our best interest at heart. Don't you worry, they will make all our problems a thing of the past, just like axons cut by a scalpel stuck through an eyehole.

Conny Torneus Apr 30, 2021
@Dada gets it 😀

Andrew Herron Apr 30, 2021
I use a firewall app that blocks most known trackers and creepy things. The stats on my phone recently passed 900,000 connections blocked since July 2019.

Lucas Apr 30, 2021
When I use my computer I always think someone is watching what I do. Whenever I use an old computer, an old phone or a device with no internet I feel a great relive, everything becomes so simple again.

Alonso Apr 30, 2021
Are you no longer using Linux?

Ron Gilbert Apr 30, 2021
I use Linux in my personal time but not for work.  I would love to but Linux doesn't have good c++ IDEs.  Xcode and VS are very mature and great.  Linux just doesn't have anything that doesn't cost me serious dev time.

David May 01, 2021
I know this is a tad bit off-topic, and still... well, there it goes: there's an excellent program for Windows 7+ that blocks software/services/processes from reaching out (among several other features). Its name is Netlimiter. Look it up on Duckduckgo -- It's a real gem :P

David May 01, 2021
I meant to say Windows 7/8/8.1/10. I'm in no way affiliated to it, ha, ha. I use it and it works : )

David May 01, 2021
Setting up a PiHole can be useful, too: (it's a free, open source effort)

Name May 01, 2021
Buuuuut... is Thimbleweed not connecting to google on startup?

Ron Gilbert May 01, 2021
Thimbleweed Park and some versions of Delores had analytics.  Since then I have radically changed my mind over the need.  There is a lot of useful information in analytics for developers but I no longer believe it outways the need for player privacy.  Most of what is important can be gleaned from achievements and interestingly enough, most people don't mind achievements even though it it is a form of tracking but run by the platform holder.  I guess people don't mind it because a) they are getting something in return or b) they don't realize its a form of tracking.  If I don't have achievements I get a lot of angry email.

Henry May 01, 2021
What kind of information would be gathered or knowledge gained from these, other than game progression or completion rate?

Ron Gilbert May 01, 2021
I used it to try and figure out what puzzles players were stuck on or how they progressed (room-by-room) though the game.  In TWP I wanted to know which characters were played the most.  It was useful and interesting information but ultimately I felt uncomfortable collecting information that I personally would have blocked.

If I was making a RPG like game what was constantly being updated then knowing how players played could be very helpful but I'd be upfront about it and have an option to turn it off.

David May 02, 2021
@Ron: Did you try Eclipse / Netbeans on Ubuntu? I think they are sound enough for most programmers. You can even fetch newer versions from their sites (versions on the repositories are oftentimes out of date)

Conny Torneus May 02, 2021
Thank you for being open about the tracking in TWP @Ron. This is the kind of stuff that will make your fan base grow.

"If I was making a RPG...". Am I sensing an RPG game under development? If so, that would be interesting indeed. Perhaps in the style of Lord Britishs Ultima series? Now That's a thought 😀

Name May 02, 2021
"...Since then I have radically changed my mind..."

tip top, thank you.

Mike May 02, 2021
I personally wouldn't mind such data being gathered from me about Thimbleweed Park, but for many games and apps I would mind. As you've pointed out, the issue is that I don't have a choice - let alone an informed choice.

Ron Gilbert May 02, 2021
I am not currently doing it, but I would love the make a RPG like Ultima.  Maybe for my next game.

LasseS May 03, 2021
The Deathspank games were enjoyable action RPG/Diablo like games though Im more into adventure games personally. It would be interesting to see you tackle a deeper RPG in the style of Ultima.
Also.. Considering your previous work and comments Im sure we can trust you would go with something a lot more interesting than the generic fantasy setting.

Someone May 03, 2021
@Ron: VS is available for Linux as Visual Studio Code (aka VS Code):
Yes, it has a different UI but it is available for Linux, mac and Windows.

Nobody May 06, 2021
VS Code contains Microsoft telemetry/tracking functionality.
There is a forked version, called VS Codium, that doesn't include telemetry.

Winfried Maus May 16, 2021
@Nobody: That is not entirely correct. VS Code had MS branding and comes with telemetry enabled by default, but that telemetry can easily be switched off. VS Codium uses the same code base, but does not have MS branding and has telemtry switched off by default. Except for the VS icon and a changed default configuration, it is essentially the same software. Here is the thing, though: Telemetry can mean just about anything, including the connection to an update server to see if there is a new version available. Telemetry, most of the time, just isn't that evil thing everybody wants to believe these days. The achievements that Ron mentioned also use telemetry. Using VS Codium instead of VS Code will also not supress the telemetry features of third party plugins that you might want to use -- it only disables telemetry used in the core product itself. But again: Executing apt update on Debian, for example, means you are explicitly okay with allowing telemetry in certain cases - or otherwise nothing would work anymore.

Morgan Jun 05, 2021
Many DRM relies on an active internet connections, it's not used just for metrics and analytics. Good old times when a paper disc with dead pirates dates was enough, has gone. Cheers. /Morgan (

x1984 Jun 12, 2021
Apple is getting billions of dollars from Google, it's their largest source of profit on iPhone, so Apple is never going to offer real privacy. E.g. When you sign into an Apple account for the first time on an iPhone, it by default automatically and secretly starts uploading all your photos in the background to iCloud... Apple gets paid billions for user data.

With iOS 15 Apple now has the "very low power mode" so users will now officially never be able to turn off their iPhone, Apple & partners can locate your turned off phone, access the turned off phone, and turn on microphone/camera on a turned off phone.

Johnny Walker Jun 12, 2021
Hmm. Not sure I agree with you on this one, Ron. If an app doesn't have access to any personal information (including locations services) how could your privacy be breached by it connecting to the internet?

Ron Gilbert Jun 12, 2021
Imagine a note taking app that uploaded all my notes.

passerby Aug 03, 2021
so, this digressed away from apple privacy, & telemetry/tracking into.... video games and philosophical ideas of users data & rights

but, for the informed, there is a steam group that tries to keep track of what games track & how, and if its possible to block them:

Exposed Connections
aka /groups/exposedconn on steam

i myself have been using gnu/linux for years, and try to remain educated about privacy trends

Kim Aug 18, 2021
I've never worked with C++ but JetBrains has CLion and their products seem quite popular:

Cheese Sep 14, 2021
There is a way to limit things a little bit, but it only seems to apply on cellular but not on WiFi. Also you might not have access to this control panel in all regions. If you open Preferences > Mobile, down the bottom there may be toggles for individual apps to limit their access to mobile data.

Another thing that can help a bit (but possibly take ages to set up!) is running an instance of WireGuard at home (runs fine on a first-gen Pi) or on a cheap VPS, and just keeping your phone connected to it all the time. You can then filter traffic and run things like Pi Hole and it applies to the phone.

I agree with the general sentiment though, we should be able to block apps from accessing the internet altogether, not just on cellular.