Apple sticks it to Facebook and Google

For years, Facebook and Google have been running a racket for tracking people on the Internet — “Sign in with Facebook,” and “Sign in with Google.” I have never fallen for this, and I hope you haven’t either. If you use these things, you’re practically handing Facebook and Google a detailed dossier on where you go on the Internet and everything you do.

Now that Apple is coming out with “Sign in with Apple,” one wonders why they didn’t do this a long time ago. Do I trust Apple’s policies on privacy? Yes. Do I trust Facebook and Google? Never in a million years.

One nice feature of Apple sign-in is that, if you use it to create a new account somewhere, you don’t have to give your real email address. Instead, Apple lets you hide your real email address by randomly generating a virtual email address for that account.

Before I upgraded my iPhone to an iPhone XR about six months ago, I would have imagined that “Face ID” was a minor frill of no great value. With Face ID, you sign in to your iPhone (and to many apps on the iPhone) just by letting the phone’s camera have a look at your face. But I have found that Face ID saves a huge amount of time and aggravation, not only because I don’t have to poke in a password with my fingers, but also because I have fewer passwords to remember. When devices can securely remember your passwords for you and you don’t have to key them in, you can have longer, more random, more secure passwords.

The ability of Apple sign-in to hide your email address also is a welcome feature. The reason we all get spam is because dark players on the Internet “harvest” email addresses and sell them. I have an email address that I’ve used for more than 20 years. It gets lots of spam. I also have an Apple email address that I use only for people (and a very few companies) that I trust. The Apple email address has never received any spam, and I have used it since 2012.

What the world is still waiting for is secure email, in which email is always encrypted and always signed with a security certificate. The technology for doing this has long existed, but no one has turned it into a system that is easy to use, because Internet companies all want to bombard us with email. I dream that Apple will do that someday. (For now, there is OpenPGP, but I doubt that anyone other than nerds would want to use it.)

Slate has a pretty good piece about Apple sign-in. Slate’s angle is that Apple actually is regulating Facebook and Google (since the U.S. government won’t). The Slate article also mentions other matters of security that I need not go into here (such as reminding people that, if you have a Gmail account, Google can read all your mail). The article is Apple Is a Tech Regulator.

Apple says that Apple sign-in will be available later this year.

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