Apple has introduced a new portal where its customers can see the information the company has on them, learn about Apple's privacy features, manage privacy settings and get a high-level overview of how the company responds to government data requests. This portal debuted for European consumers in May (just before the EU's GDPR regulation went into effect) and is now available to people in the good ol' U.S. of A. who care about how their data is handled.
The company already offers a surprising amount of information about how it handles user privacy. The "Our approach to privacy (opens in new tab)" page goes into surprising depth for everything from on-device security features and iCloud safeguards to developer tools and App Store guidelines. It also provides easy access to two whitepapers, one about iOS security (opens in new tab) updated in September 2018 and one about Face ID (opens in new tab) updated in November 2017.
But those pages, along with the ones about managing personal information (opens in new tab) and government data requests (opens in new tab), have been available for a while. The main draw here is a new feature available once you sign into your Apple ID on this web page (opens in new tab). There, you can download all of the information Apple has about you, correct erroneous information, deactivate your account, or delete your account (the former is temporary; the latter permanent).
Apple said that its download tool includes "purchase or app usage history and the data you store with Apple, such as calendars, photos, or documents." Deactivating your account is said to restrict access to your data--and, naturally, prevent you from using Apple services--until it's restored. Meanwhile, outright deleting the account will "permanently delete your account and associated data from all Apple services."
There's no guarantee this is all the information Apple has about its users, nor is there a foolproof way for someone outside the company to know their information has truly disappeared from its servers, but at least these options are here. Other companies make it frustratingly difficult or near impossible to figure out how much information they collect, let alone how that data will be managed if your account is deleted.
Apple introduced this new portal in response to the EU's GDPR protections that went into effect in May. Bringing the portal to the U.S. seems like an attempt to make sure its customers are treated similarly, if not identically, across the pond. It's also a good marketing tool and fits with the company's commitment to bolstering its data security and user privacy despite repeated efforts from various governments to weaken them.