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Privacy Not Found: How Google and Apple Handle User Data

  • Rating — 4.9 (53 votes)
  • by Igor Zviagin
  • Updated on February 18, 2020
  • Read —
    8-9 minutes

What is the cost of lies? Well, for one thing, there is always a price to pay for a deception of any kind and that is the fact. Can companies be held responsible for that? They definitely can, although they rarely are. 

Skipping the abstractions, let’s start a conversation today in regard to how big tech giants Google and Apple treat private data of their users and how the way this data is handled reveals business models behind Apple and Google, the world’s top companies by net worth and brand recognition. 

Why Google and Apple? Why privacy? Have we not talked enough about privacy in the past? We did. But the following piece will shed a light on why the treatment of user data is a cornerstone of how Google and Apple make their revenue. Once again this will correspond with the ever untangling privacygate carried out by millions of enraged users all over the world in reaction to the constant flow of data leaks. 

It is very possible that after reading this article you come to a better understanding of why privacy on the internet doesn’t exist, why your data is so precious to Google (and why its software products are free), why Apple’s brand marketing is all about “safeguarding user privacy”, and why “exclusivity at a higher cost” is in the core of Apple’s business model and their public appeal.   

Remember BlackBerry? 

BlackBerry’s peak smartphone sells coincided with the introduction of iPhone. iPhone has, essentially, killed BlackBerry. But in fighting it, Apple made a great lesson, though, it weaponized BlackBerry’s core marketing appeal – privacy, data protection, and security. BlackBerry wasn’t just an ordinary phone. It was marketed as a phone that “cannot be hacked”. And even though it wasn’t true, the marketing pitch played out very well for both companies and you will find out later what Google has to do with it. 

iPhone has always been an exclusive brand for those who “think different”. This exclusivity allowed Apple to create a very tight ecosystem with its own software products (Safari, Messages, iTunes). The marketing logic behind it was to justify the higher price with ultra-secure privacy features. 

Now, today we know why platforms collect our data and how Facebook makes billions with targeted advertising. We didn’t know it back in 2010 and even if we did, we didn’t care. Google’s software products have always been free and their mission was to attract as many users as possible to the sake of user data. Unlike Apple, Google uses this data for targeted ad campaigns. Because Apple doesn’t do it, it claims that you can have your privacy if you care enough to pay a little more for a phone and computer that “won’t allow” privacy violations and data leaks.    

GBKSOFT
Techlash of 2019 or Should Software Development be Ethical?

What is Google?

Facebook and Google make most of the income acting as advertising platforms. So, essentially, they’re in advertising business just as much (if not more) than they’re in software development business. You use Search, Mail, Maps, Chrome, and GooglePay. This is enough for Google to know everything there is to know about you. Welcome to the greatest customer survey of all times and the most universal planet census (excluding China). Google knows and what Google knows Google sells. Privacy was never an option. You opted out of it by agreeing to use software products that are at the same time the best but also absolutely free. 

Perhaps, now you better understand marketing motto “if you’re not paying for a product, you are the product”. If you don’t pay with money, you pay with your data. Collecting data of billions of people results in a precise portrait of yourself, your desires, needs, ambitions, views, and personal histories that will be used against you or, to be clear, your wallet. Welcome to the Surveillance Economy at its best. Companies make everything possible to get your attention and once you’re hooked, you’re going to stick with them for good. 

Now, allegedly, Apple doesn’t do this. Apple has a reputation of a very secretive company and it even denied FBI requests to hack some of its phones. Apple doesn’t use or resell your data. But it uses this to sell you the whole brand scented with privacy for all. Even though leaks occur, Apple makes it very difficult for third-party service providers to collect your data if you use an iPhone. There, now you have iPhone branding it as BlackBerry. The majority smartphone users across the world, though, consider it a fair trade to buy a decide twice as cheaper than iPhone because most of us don’t care (or hasn’t cared up until the moment we realized we don’t want to be targeted anymore) about privacy so much. Many even like targeted advertising telling them what to buy.

What About Apple’s Emphasis on Privacy?   

So, we got it right that Apple bet on privacy because it doesn’t deal in advertising and Apple has also branded this to make security its branding image. It is also true that Apple wanted to undermine its digital competitors Google and Facebook by highlighting that, unlike them, Apple has no intention to collect and sell user’s private data. That’s why it uses “Privacy by Design” as its motto. 

Privacy is not just about advertising. You digital trace can cost you a job, your insurance, define how much to charge you, what prices to show you, whether to let your children enroll in the university or not, etc. This is serious and there are reasons to make Big Tech secure your privacy right in order to safeguard you from unequal treatment. We gladly share our lives on Instagram and Facebook, we also search everything on Google but what is the cost? Is it too high?

The Future

Your privacy rights have been violated by tech industry. What’s next? What are you going to do about it? Even Apple cannot further guarantee the privacy of your private lives. Most people are going to simply carry on regardless. The pro-privacy grassroots movement of enthusiasts, though, decided to trade Google Search for DuckDuckGo (that markets itself as a privacy-centered search engine) and Mozilla Firefox instead of Chrome. But these tactics cannot change the weather, and so the nature of ad-tech isn’t going to change significantly in the future.

GBKSOFT
Legal Pitfalls of App Development

How Data Leaks Can Hurt Users?

It all started in the last decade. Companies and even custom officials adopted a practice of checking your social media accounts as an extra measure to ensure your adequacy. You digital double and your digital footprint that you leave as you browse is kept track of. It can and will be used against your best interest (if you don’t consider interesting looking at different crap 24/7). 

For example, your data can be used to make a decision on whether to give you a loan or not, how much to charge you for the renewal of you health insurance, whether to accept you to a college or not, etc. All this info is out there even if you don’t want it to be and it is out there for a reason. My thinking always goes, who benefits from it? It affect you but it benefits huge service providers and big business corporations in their risk-assessments. Can you be trusted? What do you own? Previously, only banks and government agencies knew about it. Today, Nestle or Amazon knows more about you than your parents and you government put together. Pretty amazing, right? Well, amazingly horroribly, I’d clarify.    

unfortunately, we were unable to find more recent info because of the unimaginably slow and complex organization of US Patent Bureau website

So, AdTech and AntiAdTech Branding, Right? 

Well, you can call it that if you’d like, it doesn’t really matter in the end. What matters, though, is that so-called attention economy is based on the retention tactics and nothing helps to retain customers better that a free product of good quality. You don’t pay for Google services but they are of excellent quality to the extent where it is difficult to compete. Even iPhone users use gmail and Chrome. Google and Facebook are 2 greatest Digital Advertising companies (with every other major platform like Reddit and Twitter occupying the remaining space).   

Conclusion

With the introduction of GDPR in Europe and a greater awareness of general public about the accessibility of their personal data, it is now clear that AdTech will change. Google faces major challenges as their business model becomes more and more of target by global media outlets. In the 21st century the major fight will be all about user data. This is surveillance capitalism as it is. You cannot sell your product if you haven’t previously defined your target audience with precision.

And you cannot know your audience if you don’t collect their data. Consider Amazon that gathers so much user data even if it doesn’t yet know what to do with it (just in case). That’s because it will definitely be useful in the future (Amazon knows what Kindle users like and dislike, how much they read, when, and where). As the story goes, Apple will continue to brand it as a privacy-first company, operating on the premise that your data is safe as long as you use Apple products. That is why Apple products are more expensive as it costs more to maintain the ecosystem that doesn’t fully rely on advertising (like Google and Facebook).

Need more info on privacy in software development?

Igor Zviagin I'm a tech journalist and market analyst. Software development, apps, tech trends, and digital innovations are all among my interests. Why? Simply, because it's the future. You can have more of that future in my blog entries. I have 5+ years of experience in online journalism and blogging but I've been a tech enthusiasts and even something of a geek my whole life. It is my pleasure to share with you the knowledge I have. Reading my articles, you can be sure to find expert opinions of senior developers, market tendencies, design tips, and info on outsourcing, business industries or specific Web and Mobile projects.

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