By Stephen Nellis
(Reuters) - Apple Inc (AAPL.O) on Wednesday rolled out an online tool to users in the United States and several other countries to download, change or delete all the data that the iPhone maker has collected on them.
Apple updated its privacy website with the tool, which was unveiled earlier this year for users in the European Union in response to the region's General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. Apple will now let users in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand see and download all information that Apple has collected on them. It also gives users a simpler way to make changes to the data, suspend their Apple account or even permanently delete it.
Apple previously offered those functions in different places but brought them together for Europe's data privacy law. It plans to roll out the same tool for all users around the world by the end of the year.
Apple devices such as the iPhone or Apple Watch collect detailed data about users, such as whom they email, call or text message and even biometric data such as heart rates and fingerprints. But Apple's practice has been to keep much of that data on the devices themselves and encrypt it with the user's pass code, meaning that Apple does not possess the data and cannot unscramble it if asked to do so by law enforcement officials.
Apple has sought to turn its privacy stance into a business advantage against its technology industry rivals, with Chief Executive Tim Cook saying that Apple "wouldn't be in this situation" earlier this year when Facebook Inc (FB.O) came under scrutiny for the misuse of its data by Cambridge Analytica. Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg in turn called Cook's comments "extremely glib."
Despite its focus on keeping data on devices, Apple does collect and store some data about its users. With the updates to its privacy website Wednesday it is seeking to better explain those instances. For example, Apple collects data on users' reading habits to improve suggestions in its Apple News app, but it says that data is linked to an anonymous identifier, rather than a personal profile, and that it is not connected to its other services and can be reset at any time.
Apple also expanded its guide for users on how to adjust their privacy settings. For example, Apple's default settings allow some advertising tracking in is App Store and Apple News, but it explains how users can limit that tracking.
(Reporting by Stephen Nellis; editing by Jonathan Oatis)