Apple has been talking a lot about privacy lately, releasing a YouTube video on the topic, using it as a selling point in the most recent Apple event and even putting up Billboards about privacy on their products, this is in contrast to companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon who rarely bring attention to their privacy policies.
So why is this such an important subject for Apple?
Well, that’s what we’re trying to explain right now.
Now the basis of Apple’s position on privacy is that they’re trying to do right by their customers, not necessarily out of the good of their own hearts, but because that’s how they increase the lifetime value of every user and to make as much revenue as possible, which comes from hardware sales.
And one of Apple’s strongest selling points is privacy. so they talked about it a lot in order to distinguish themselves from the competition like Google who’s known for collecting and selling as much of their users data as possible.
But taking privacy seriously isn’t anything new to Apple, just listen to Steve Jobs talking about it back in 2010.
“Is privacy looked at differently in Silicon Valley than in the rest of America?”
“Silicon Valley is not monolithic,” Jobs said. “We’ve always had a very different view of privacy than some of our colleagues in the Valley.”
“We take privacy extremely seriously, as an example we worry a lot about location in phones, and we worry, that, some, you know 14 year old is going to get stalked and something terrible is going to happen because of our fault and so as an example before any app can get location data, we don’t make it a rule that they have to put up a panel and ask because they might not follow that rule they call our location services and we put up the panel saying this app wants to use your location data, is that okay with you?”
“every time they want to use it”
Just by the tone of his voice you can tell how important privacy features were to Apple even over a decade ago, and the example jobs gave of apps potentially stalking their users was quite prophetic, since a sort of virtual stalking has been going on in the digital advertising space for years, that’s what prompted Apple to implement the app tracking transparency feature in iOS 14.5.
They also included an anti-stalking feature with AirTag.
But there were much deeper reasons why tech companies should take privacy seriously.
Consider how our lives have moved from physical to digital. Most of us don’t have filing cabinets with our health records, since that data is in the health app or a third party app like MyChart, and our banking information is in our PNC or Chase app. Maybe you even have location data in the FindMy app where your friends are family are sharing their location, not to mention the personal text conversations, work emails, and internet history that almost every user has on their device this huge amount of sensitive personal data has never been located in one place before but with the advent of the smartphone that has changed.
And accessing that data is a treasure trove for hackers and extortionist who make a living off of stealing your identity, selling your account passwords to third parties or even emailing you personally threatening to release private photos or conversations that could cost you your job unless you pay them a certain amount of money, something the FBI has said is becoming more common and although it’s impossible to be sure all of your Digital Data is completely safe,
Apple has proven to have a much more proactive approach to protecting user data than other companies, for example the FBI publicly pressured Apple into creating a version of iOS that would bypass a devices passcode and allow them to access all of its locally stored data, which is an interesting request since Apple products in particular use encryption as often as possible and avoid unique device identifiers when processing data in the cloud, all that means is Apple can’t access something that can be your message conversations or iCloud Keychain and turn them over if the FBI requests.
This is due to something called end-to-end encryption which prevents anyone from accessing the content except for the sender and recipient this is different than standard encryption which a company like apple can simply decode since they have the encryption key, but Apple refuse to create the operating system that the FBI wanted, asserting that it’s impossible to unlock just one device and creating a master key with a potential to unlock every iOS device in the world would create a privacy and security vulnerability that puts every Apple user at-risk.
It’s not all accolades for Apple though, they gave up plans to fully protect their users iCloud data with end-to-end encryption since they didn’t want negative PR that came with regularly challenging the US government.
“The legal department killed plans to introduce end-to-end encryption for reasons you can imagine.”
A former Apple software engineer
they decided they weren’t going to poke the bear anymore, so well no company is perfect. Apple is one of the only tech companies that doesn’t traffic-in user data, Google, Amazon and Facebook among others all make billions of dollars selling user data to third party Brokers and advertisers, in fact, data recently surpassed oil as the world’s most valuable resource.
So it would almost be bad business practice for these companies to advocate for user privacy, and that’s why apple is highlighting their commitment to it, not only is advertising their commitment to protecting user privacy appealing to customers, but it also implicitly calls into question the intent of Apple’s competition like Google who makes over 80% of their revenue from selling user data.
And also happens to be the creator of Android, the iPhone’s number one competitor so Apple takes privacy seriously not only because of genuine concerns over Public Safety, identity-theft, extortion attempts, user tracking and data trafficking, but also because it benefits their business. Apple makes money from selling hardware and if they can attract or retain more customers because of privacy benefits they’ll enjoy more revenue. so that is why Apple takes privacy so seriously.
This article is inspired by a video in Apple Explained YouTube channel.