In its effort to combat fake news, social networking conglomerate Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) uses a system that rates the trustworthiness of its users, according to a bombshell report from The Washington Post last month. While Facebook has good intentions -- it's trying to recognize malicious actors on its platform -- the revelation didn't sit well with users and immediately drew criticism. Facebook denied that it has an overarching trustworthiness system, and argued that it primarily uses the system in an effort to identify bad actors that are trying to game its algorithms.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is now following in Facebook's footsteps.

Person with open laptop holding a smartphone with a security icon and login screen

Image source: Getty Images.

Computing a "device trust score"

VentureBeat reports that Apple has made a subtle change to its terms and conditions after releasing major software updates to several of its operating systems this week. The new section included in its privacy policy details a "device trust score" that Apple calculates and uses:

To help identify and prevent fraud, information about how you use your device, including the approximate number of phone calls or emails you send and receive, will be used to compute a device trust score when you attempt a purchase. The submissions are designed so Apple cannot learn the real values on your device. The scores are stored for a fixed time on our servers.

It sounds like Apple is trying to identify scammers that spam people with questionable phone calls and emails. Nearly half of all phone calls made by 2019 are expected to be scams, according to a recent study by First Orion. That's a massive spike in fraudulent activity, up from just 4% of calls being scams in 2017.

Data and Privacy disclaimer on an iPhone

Image source: Apple.

What's less clear is how Apple actually uses this "device trust score." Will it prevent scammers from making purchases? Will it attempt to stop the suspicious activity in question? Are the scores tied only to the device and anonymized? Apple could also be trying to crack down on fake app reviews or other suspicious activity on its platforms.

Apple has made privacy a strategic battleground, staunchly defending its users' privacy. It's differentiating itself from many of its tech giant peers that offer ad-supported online services. The Mac maker even recently took down a VPN app that Facebook was using to spy on users. Given its hard-line stance on privacy, Apple probably has more goodwill here than Facebook, which has been plagued by a seemingly endless string of privacy and data practices scandals.

Users may be relatively more amenable to Apple compiling a trust score in its effort to mitigate fraud, compared to Facebook, which was ranked as the least-trusted major tech company earlier this year in a SurveyMonkey/Recode survey. A separate Reuters poll had similar results. We'll just have to see if Apple faces any backlash from its loyal user base, but it seems unlikely.

Facebook's problems have raised awareness of privacy costs, but most people simply still don't care all that much.

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