Home SecurityPrivacy Apple is sneaking around its own privacy policy — and will regret it

Apple is sneaking around its own privacy policy — and will regret it

Apple has a rather complicated relationship with privacy, which it always points to as a differentiator with Google. But delivering on it is a different tale. 

Much of this involves the definition of privacy. Fortunately for Apple’s marketing people, “privacy” is the ultimate undefinable term because every user views it differently. If you ask a 60-year-old man in Chicago what he considers to be private, you’ll get a very different answer than if you asked a 19-year-old woman in Los Angeles. Outside the US, privacy definitions vary even more. Germans and Canadians truly value privacy, but even they don’t agree on what they personally consider private.

What brings this up is a recent move by Apple to allow app developers to collect tons of data from Apple users, despite the company’s privacy policy that allows users to block tracking or data sharing.

The Financial Times explained the change well: “Apple has allowed app developers to collect data from its 1bn iPhone users for targeted advertising, in an unacknowledged shift that lets companies follow a much looser interpretation of its controversial privacy policy. In May, Apple communicated its privacy changes to the wider public, launching an advert that featured a harassed man whose daily activities were closely monitored by an ever-growing group of strangers. When his iPhone prompted him to ‘Ask App Not to Track,’ he clicked it and they vanished. Apple’s message to potential customers was clear — if you choose an iPhone, you are choosing privacy. But seven months later, companies including Snap and Facebook have been allowed to keep sharing user-level signals from iPhones, as long as that data is anonymized and aggregated rather than tied to specific user profiles.”

Ah, yes, the always-popular “it’s not really private if it’s anonymized/aggregated” line. Let’s explore that a bit. 

First, let’s start by looking at anonymization/aggregation in theory. If it works perfectly (which it often doesn’t and that’s pretty much the point), no user will see any ad that reflects a specific purchase they made or piece of content they looked at/listened to/watched.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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