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Apple’s reluctance to officially participate in the world’s leading consumer trade show CES has been softening in recent years, as the company used the 2019 event as a springboard for third-party Apple TV- and AirPlay-related announcements, as well as a gigantic outdoor poster touting its stance on privacy. Now the company is taking the next step with an official appearance at the 2020 event in Las Vegas, though it’s joining a roundtable discussion — not formally exhibiting at the show.

According to an official CES schedule, Apple senior director of global privacy Jane Horvath will join FTC commissioner Rebecca Slaughter, Facebook chief privacy officer Erin Egan, and Procter & Gamble global privacy officer Susan Shook for “Chief Privacy Officer Roundtable: What Do Consumers Want?” — a one-hour discussion starting at 1 p.m. Pacific time on January 7. The event will be moderated by Rajeev Chand of Wing Venture Capital, and promises to address not only the title question but also how companies build privacy at scale, and whether regulation will be a fragmented patchwork.

The group discussion gives Apple an opportunity to hammer home one of its bigger marketing messages, namely that it remains committed to user privacy across all of its devices and services, with ambitions to see a federal privacy law passed soon. Last year, Apple’s “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone” banner loomed large outside CES’ exhibition halls, appearing within eyeshot of demonstrations from chief rival Google.

Despite its supposed focus on privacy, Apple had a number of issues of its own to contend with throughout the year, including problems with the security of its FaceTime Audio service, user recordings made by Siri devices including HomePods and Apple Watches, and apparent Chinese government hacking of Uighur Muslims. The company has apologized for the issues, however, and maintained that it is deeply committed to protecting its users from monitoring.

Apple has not formally exhibited at CES in decades, but participated in various ways before Steve Jobs returned as CEO in the mid-1990s, including assisting Bandai in showing off the Pippin hybrid computer and game console and unveiling the Newton PDA during a keynote speech. The company is unlikely to have a booth or larger formal presence at the sprawling event, but may — like last year — allow TV-, speaker-, and home automation device-making partners to reveal new apps or features during the show.


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