Apple revealed the most popular emoji in a paper discussing the need to protect user privacy. In the paper, Apple showed a graph which indicated that a laughing face with tears coming out of his eyes was overwhelmingly the most popular emoji. In second place was a heart, followed by a sobbing face and then a face with two hearts for eyes.
The graph does not have any numbers, so it does not precisely indicate how much more popular the laughing face is compared to the other emojis or how often it is used by Internet users. However, a study conducted in December 2016 by the University of Michigan and Peking University corroborates Apple’s claim. That study found that the laughing face emoji comprised 15.4 percent of all emojis, and also found the heart to be in second place at just 6 percent.
The Importance of Differential Privacy
Emoji statistics are amusing, but Apple’s graph was a small section of a very important paper. Apple’s differential privacy algorithms lets it collect and aggregate data from a large number of users while preserving the privacy of individual users. Apple needs to collect data like emoji statistics “to help design better ways to find and use our favorite emoji,” but it has also cultivated a reputation as a protector of digital privacy and cannot break that reputation with upsetting its loyal fans.
Apple first began using differential privacy last year with iOS 10, and Wired reported on a speech given by senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi last year where he talked about the importance of the algorithm. Differential privacy, Federighi suggested, would give Apple the data to help them create great features while also giving users great privacy.
In addition to using differential privacy to help discover users’ emoji preferences and allowing you to create your own emoji, Apple is also using it to deal with Safari crashing domains, Lookup Hints, and QuickType suggestions.
Apple made significant changes to its emojis last year as part of the iOS 10 release, and some users criticized it for not being inclusive enough in addition to various design changes. But Apple will clearly not be changing the laughing emoji anytime soon.