The Apple privacy offensive continues — and Google and Facebook are shook

One of my favorite longburn stories over the past couple of years is the Apple privacy drive. It’s a winding narrative, but the easiest way to sum it up is the company has made privacy one of its leading products.

This has been bubbling away in the background for some time, but hit fever pitch recently with the launch of iOS 14. You can read more about the specifics of the Apple privacy offensive in its latest iPhone software here, but there’s one update that’s particularly relevant to the state of things today: app tracking and data.

To put it simply, Apple will soon require apps to get the user’s permission before tracking their data. That might sound obvious, but it’s quietly revolutionary and is ruffling feathers across the entire industry.

Anyway, the actual news. Apple continued its privacy offensive today by releasing an in-depth (and cute) whitepaper. Called A Day in the Life of Your Data, it analyzes how apps track people, something it explores through the lens of a father and daughter visiting a park.

I’d recommend just reading it, but we’ll throw down a quick summary. The report explains how websites, apps, and social media platforms harvest user data and sell it on without the average user’s knowledge. It shows how and when this data is collected through everyday tasks, such as riding the bus, playing a game, and paying for food.

apple privacy example data tracking
A lovely drawing from the Apple privacy report, just because.

One of the reasons I’m a fan of the Apple privacy offensive is simple: it’s terrifying other big technology companies. You only need to look at Zuckerberg’s attacks on Apple or Google’s mewling to see how much it’s upsetting organizations whose business model is concentrated on shadily harvesting your data and selling it to advertisers.

And you know what? Fuck them. I hope the Apple privacy offensive decimates their businesses. The internet is broken, and this may help level the playing field a bit.

Before we leave though, let’s think about Apple a little bit. While I truly believe the company’s privacy-first approach is laudable and a fantastic step in ensuring people are more aware of how the technology world works, let’s not forget this is a product.

Apple, like any other global business, is out for only one thing: profit. This focus on privacy isn’t really about protecting you, it’s a strategy designed to sell more of its devices and services. This doesn’t mean it’s not beneficial to the consumer in the long run, just that this isn’t the angle the company is coming from — and that’s vital to keep in mind.

Basically, if it was legal and profitable to harvest your organs, one day you’d wake up in an ice-filled Apple Bath filled with Tim Cook standing over you.

Despite this, we should still laud the Apple privacy approach. The company decided to wade against the current and go another way compared with other technology organizations. Yes, it might be only doing it for profit, but there was plenty of money to be made otherwise.

And anything that leaves Facebook and Google shook can’t be all bad.

You can read the A Day in the Life of Your Data whitepaper here.

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Published January 28, 2021 — 12:33 UTC

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