Apple Pushed Another Critical Service With News+, Apple Card, TV+ and Arcade, And it is Called Privacy
It has been brewing for a while. The entire privacy debate has been raging on ever since the explosive Cambridge Analytica data scandal that damaged Facebook’s credibility. Apple has often positioned itself above the rest of the tech companies, when it comes to user data privacy. Just this month, Apple pushed out a series of iPhone advertisements with the “privacy matters” pitch. That has continued with the announcements of the News+, Apple Card, Apple TV and Arcade services. Apple says they will not track any user data from any of these services.
As things stand, Apple says that the News+ app will not track what you read and will not share any data with advertisers. This could be a veiled dig at Facebook, which tracks every single web browsing activity that you do, and then serves you advertisements in the timeline based on your personality sketch that it may have developed. The new TV+ service will not track what you watch and will definitely not judge you for watching a romantic comedy out of the blue (Disclaimer: we have nothing against romantic comedies, just using this genre as an illustrative example). This could be a veiled dig at Netflix, which has often touted great artificial intelligence derived from all the user behavior data that it collects—often facing criticism for allegedly recommending content and artwork based on what it understands as a person’s race, colour or sexual orientation. The Apple Card credit card linked to the Apple Pay payments service will not track what you have bought, from which store and when. Advertisers will not know what you are buying and will have no knowledge of your buying preferences. The same is true for Apple Arcade gaming too.
In an interview with MSNBC in May, Apple CEO Tim Cook had said he found it creepy that “all of a sudden something is chasing me around the web,” in a reference to sophisticated advertisement targeting that platforms such as Facebook and Google tend to use. Digital advertising is pretty straightforward in how it works. You browse something on a shopping website, but don’t actually buy it. The next time you log in on Facebook, or may even be reading a harmless story on some website, and chances are you will see an advert of that same product or something similar there. It is a never-ending chain of tracking that really leaves you at a wits end about what data and usage characteristics each tech platform is accumulating from your online presence. Mind you, there is no getting away from it. Companies will continue to track you and understand what you watch, what you buy, what sports you like and more—because that is exactly the data which needs to be fed into the growing creature that is artificial intelligence, which everyone is betting big on. But it is what happens with the data that is accumulated, is perhaps what matters the most. Unfortunately, most companies sell this data to advertisers. And then what happens with that data, and how safe or unsafe it is, is anyone’s guess.
But how is Apple able to make a privacy pitch with such conviction?
The reality is that unlike Facebook and Google for instance, as well as hundreds of other tech companies, Apple’s business model isn’t at all reliant on advertising. It sells iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, MacBooks, iMacs, iCloud subscriptions, Apple Music subscriptions and apps as well as games on the App Store. And now Apple wants you to use the new services, which includes News+, Apple Card, Apple Arcade and Apple TV+ without any privacy scares.
However, it will be interesting to note that the very nature of most of these new services will dictate that Apple at least understand your content consumption preferences to offer relevant recommendations. The thing is, Apple took pains to assure everyone that none of the usage data will be shared with any advertisers. It is perhaps a great pitch from a company that knows right now how worn down consumers are with being tracked and served digital advertisements relentlessly. Offering privacy is a great pitch to sell more subscriptions and devices. And we shouldn’t really mind, as long as the advertisers are kept out of the loop.