We are about to finally see some meaningful action against the incessant violation of our privacy by the tech companies and data brokers that collect and sell our personal information to the highest bidder. (A more accurate description would be to rent your information multiple times to anyone willing to pay). Up to now, there has been no pushback, either by the companies themselves or government regulators, to limit what is collected and how it’s used.
With it’s next version of its software for iPhones and iPads, iOS 14.5, Apple will require all apps to notify us what information is being collected and ask our permission for it to be shared. When asked, it’s most likely a large majority of us will deny that permission. Now Apple will still depend on the app makers to do what they say – it’s nearly impossible to test every app – so it will be important that Apple has severe penalties for violating their commitment.
The biggest impact will be to Facebook who has grown by acquiring more private information surreptitiously and deceptively than any company in the history of the world. Naturally, they are protesting the most. That’s because their entire business model is based upon aggressively collecting the personal information of billions of individuals without providing any significant benefits, beyond social chat and enabling connections between those with like interests. Some can point to Google as being equally reliant on our data, but they’ve at least provided us with services and products of much greater value, such as search, navigation, email, storage, and much more. They’ve also become more forthcoming with what they do and allowing us to opt out. Interestingly, they’ve not taken a position in opposition to Apple.
Facebook claims that if Apple goes implements this requirement, it could be an existential threat. They don’t want us to know what they do and are afraid if we know, then we’ll chose privacy. Things might have been different if they had been more forthcoming over the years and less dishonest. Just just week when it was revealed that 500 million people’s data taken from Facebook was now being sold on the dark web, the company dismissed it as old news.
More than any other consumer company, Apple has erred on the side of protecting our privacy, although, until now, it did little to prevent others from using Apple devices to track us. There is a history to their position. In 2010 Steve Jobs stated that “Privacy means people know what they are signing up for in plain English,” at an All Things Digital conference that I attended. He originally proposed asking people if they wanted to be tracked.
Facebook has opposed Apple’s move, explaining that this new policy is bad for small businesses who rely on the personalized advertising, an argument that has been ridiculed by most tech analysts. Essentially, Facebook has been built on a foundation that requires on our personal data to survive. They’ve shown no restraint in how far they would go to collect this data, going well beyond their members, and reaching out to non-members alike, scraping data from our phones and our friends.
While we still need new privacy laws to be enacted, Apple is taking an important step that benefits its users, and is just good business sense. In fact, this issue comes down to something so simple: Apple wants you to have the right to decide for yourself to share your private information, while Facebook doesn’t want you to have that choice.