Privacy, Security, and Baseball

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User privacy versus national security, Free Friday Night Baseball is a thing of the past, and a glitch in the Apple Music matrix.

User Privacy vs National Security

Report: Apple Most Compliant When Governments Ask for User Info

While Apple has built a bit of a reputation on user privacy in the past few years, that doesn’t mean your secrets stay secret — not when Uncle Sam and his compatriots come calling, anyway. 

The site WebProNews has new numbers from VPN provider SurfShark. According to those, “the US government makes the most requests for user data from Big Tech companies than any other jurisdiction in the world.” And — historically, anyway — our pals in Cupertino tend to be the most compliant. The report says:

The company analyzed data requests to Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft by “government agencies of 177 countries between 2013 and 2021.”

In that timeframe, nearly 2.5 million account requests were made by the US. That’s said by the piece to be “more than four times the number of Germany,” second on the requests list. “In fact,” the piece says, “the US made more requests than all of Europe, including the UK, which collectively came in under 2 million.”

Of course, if you give a mouse a cookie… calls for information beget more calls for more information — or have to this point, anyway. Gabriele Kaveckyte, Privacy Counsel at Surfshark, is quoted in the piece saying:

Besides requesting data from technology companies, authorities are now exploring more ways to monitor and tackle crime through online services. For instance, the EU is considering a regulation that would require internet service providers to detect, report, and remove abuse-related content… On one hand, introducing such new measures could help solve serious criminal cases, but civil society organizations expressed their concerns of encouraging surveillance techniques which may later be used, for example, to track down political rivals.

As for who’s giving up what how often, the SurfShark report says:

Apple has led in disclosure rate since 2016, raising it from 76% in 2016 to 86% in 2021. While Apple’s average is 82%, the remaining three companies’ average is around 70%. More than half (57%) of all requests that Apple complied with had come from the US.

A Privacy Reformation?

While Apple may make it easier than others today, Apple, Alphabet, and Meta all want to make making at least some requests more difficult going forward. AppleInsider says those three companies are lobbying to “change the way Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) works” before the end of the year. That’s when Congress is expected to try to renew the rule. According to the piece:

…Section 702 allows government agencies to demand data — such as phone records, texts, and emails — from companies for national security investigations.

According to the piece, the companies:

…hope to gain the ability to publicly disclose how often they’re asked to provide information under Section 702 and what kind of data they are expected to hand over.

Big Tech also hopes to restrict intelligence agencies from using the information and instead require a warrant before agencies can search the Section 702 database for info on US citizens.

That may sound like a pipe dream, though legislators on both sides of the aisle are said to be interested in tightening the rule. AppleInsider says Representative Darin LaHood (R-Illinois) has said publicly that “a clean legislative reauthorization of 702 is a non-starter.” Similarly, Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) is quoted as saying, “We must take this opportunity to reform Section 702 and overhaul privacy protections for Americans.”

‘Friday Night Baseball’ Goes Behind Apple TV+ Paywall

Free baseball is a thing of the past, where Apple TV is concerned. The Cupertino-company and Major League Baseball announced their “Friday Night Baseball” plans on Wednesday. This year, they require a plan. According to the press release, the weekly doubleheader “will be available to all Apple TV+ subscribers on Fridays throughout the regular season.” 

Subscribers — not just people with the Apple TV app. That’s the bad news, assuming any of the news is bad. More to the upside, the games will be available in more places. A piece on the announcement from TechCrunch says the games will be available to viewers in 60 countries, a significant increase over last year’s 13. 

Interesting Local Aspects of ‘Friday Night Baseball’

There are a couple of interesting local angles as well. Same as with Major League Soccer, there are no local blackout restrictions for the MLB games. So, if you live in New York City and one of the week’s games involves the Yankees of the Mets, you’ll get to watch the game. Additionally, there’s a local angle to the broadcasts as well. While Apple did announce a new broadcast team, they’d be national for a national audience. For folks who prefer more homers with their homers, Apple says:

Fans in the U.S. and Canada will also have the option to listen to the audio of the home and away teams’ local radio broadcasts during “Friday Night Baseball” games.

So —  two “marquee” games every Friday, though no ability to follow a particular team or teams throughout the season. Local radio broadcasts to compliment national television coverage, though — again — local to whatever game happens to turn up, which may or may not be your favorite team. Is any of that enough to get people to pony up $6.99 a month? Or is “Friday Night Baseball” just a nice bonus for folks already paying to watch Sharper, “Shrinking,” and “Ted Lasso?” 

Whatever the case, Apple TV+ will be taking viewers out to the ball game, soon. “Friday Night Baseball” starts just over two weeks from now on Friday, April 7 on Apple TV+. 

Report: Other People’s Playlists Showing Up for Some Apple Music Users

Streaming services like Apple Music are great for discovering new tunes. But they shouldn’t belong to other people, right? MacRumors notes a number of complaints on Reddit “about other people’s playlists randomly appearing in (…) music libraries in the Music app.” According to the piece Redditor adh1003: 

…has compiled several reports from users complaining about the appearance of strange playlists in the app that they do not recognize. MacRumors has since found other posts on Reddit from users reporting the same behavior.

It’s not just adding, though. Some reports have the unexpected playlists slotting in with a user’s existing playlists. Other times though, the mystery lists have replaced playlists made by the user.

The piece says the issue “appears to be sparking serious privacy concerns for some users,” though MacRumors itself sees little call for that. Quoting the report:

Some users have expressed concerns that their Apple accounts have been hacked, but the more likely cause of the issue is an unspecified problem with Apple’s iCloud server. Unsyncing and then re-syncing iCloud for the Music app (Settings -> Apple ID -> iCloud -> Show All) has worked for a handful of users, but not all.

Apple does not seem to have commented on the issue to affected users, nor to MacRumors.

Apple’s Auto Testing Continues

Apple’s still hard at work on the autonomous auto thing. The site macReports reports that the number of Apple drivers testing driverless features has grown since January from 196 people to 201. As for driverless cars with no driver — that number for Apple stands at zero, at least for cars on the road. “Apple still has not applied for a driverless permit,” according to the report. 

So how’s the program going? Well, there was one fender bender, though that seems to have been down to human error. Late last month, the report says one of Apple’s cars in “manual driving mode” made a u-turn and hit a curb in the process. “No injuries were reported and law enforcement was not called to the scene,” according to macReports. “The test vehicle sustained damage to the right front rim.”

Apple TV+ Up for 15 BAFTA Television/Television Craft Awards

And finally today, Apple TV+ has 15 shots at more awards. Nominations for the BAFTA Television and Television Craft Awards have been announced, and Apple TV+ titles have picked up 15. 

According to a piece from AppleInsider, the shows “Bad Sisters” and “Slow Horses” have each picked up five nominations, “The Essex Serpent” picked up three, “Pachinko” nabbed one in the category for International productions, and Taron Egerton picked up one for Leading Actor in the limited series “Black Bird.” He’ll actually go up against Gary Oldman in the same category for “Slow Horses.” 

“The Bafta Television Craft Awards will be announced on April 23, 2023,” according to AppleInsider. “The remaining Bafta Television Awards categories will be on May 14, 2023.”

Today on The Mac Observer’s Daily Observations Podcast

Apple’s major changes with major league baseball raised a few questions for me — TMO Managing Editor Jeff Butts joins me to bat those around. Plus: Jeff may have had that Apple Music issue — he’ll tell us more on the Daily Observations Podcast from The Mac Observer.

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