Beware Apple Buyers

Apple wants to be seen as the more privacy-protecting alternative.

It publicly acknowledged this issue in a 2014 open letter from its CEO. Since then, it has introduced features that limit others’ access to user data, and used these as part of an ad campaign (Leswig 2021).

Apple even considers privacy in its own words to be a “fundamental human right,” and calls it a “core” design value and a company-wide belief.

This promotion is actually the reason I started using its messaging service after one of kids stopped using the open-source encrypted messaging app we had been using. This switch not only restored privacy to my communication with my kids but also added it to communication with half of my siblings, both of my parents, and others who use this service and these devices.

I complained about its economic and cultural elitism but couldn’t deny its default privacy. I also realized that using Apple devices was easier than convincing others to use Signal.

All of which explains why I was surprised to learn that Apple has been using Google as its default search engine, and continues to do so.

Apple isn’t unaware of the Google privacy problems. For example, Apple has long considered Android, which Google owns, to be “a massive tracking device”(Warren 2023). It also has contrasted its privacy policies with its competitors (Bentley 2023).

The official explanation is that no legitimate alternative exists, which seems demonstrably false. A more plausible one is that Google pays Apple one-third of its Safari advertising revenue, which some have estimated to be more than $18 billion (BBC 2023).

Apple to be fair isn’t the only surprise here. Mozilla Firefox also does the same presumably for the same reason.

The scale, and stakes, of these betrayals seem different. Mozilla promotes open-source software and struggles with user share while Apple, which was the first company to achieve a $3 trillion market value, is the most valuable company in terms of market cap in the world.

The privacy implications seem significant.

Privacy for Apple appears to be less a human right and more a business a strategy, and one it sacrifices when doing so is better for shareholders. For example, it internally collects user data, which it inaccurately claims cannot be used to identify users (Burgess 2022).

Users must decide for themselves whether the privacy differences are not just differences of degree, and if such internal tracking is acceptable. Those who agree might prefer Apple devices as long as they can afford these.

They need to understand at the very least that any such privacy advantage is relative, contingent, and quite possibly temporary. Caveat emptor, Apple users.






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