Apple really wants people take their privacy seriously. The thing is, hardly anyone does. If you ask, a lot of people will tell you they do, but then they do things that make it pretty clear that they don’t, or have no idea what they’re doing on the internet involved retrieve their personal information.
Since no one takes their privacy seriously, Apple takes a different approach – humor. Today the company released another privacy-focused advertisement and, like its predecessor, it’s a humorous look at a relatively serious subject.
The ad follows Ellie, who comes across an auction where different parts of her online data are being auctioned off. First, her emails, including “the ones she opened and read”. Then, his pharmacy purchases, his location, his SMS, his contacts and his browsing history.
The ad – as absurd as it may seem at first glance – makes a point. Internet as we know it designed to track each of these things. Almost all websites, apps, search engines, and social platforms collect data about your activity and use it to show you personalized ads.
Personalized ads aren’t necessarily bad. The internet was mostly built with money from advertisers. Many websites and services that people use daily are possible through digital advertising, and it’s arguably best if you’re going to see ads that those ads are relevant.
The problem is that most of the internet — the part built on personalized ads — is a little scary when you think about all the tracking it takes to find out what’s relevant to you. For years, internet platforms got away with it. facebook and google, for example, were able to track users most of the time without them knowing at all, and certainly without asking permission.
Ellie is surprised to find out how much data about her is being collected and auctioned off, as I’m sure many of us would be. This is because the companies that track, collect, and auction your data don’t want you to think about what they’re doing. Why? Because they know that most people would rather the internet not track everything they do.
If you were on the fence about it, look no further than Facebook’s revelation that Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature, which was released with iOS 14.5will cost the company as much as $10 billion in revenue this year. When given a choice, people opt out of tracking.
In the ad, Ellie does just that, pulling out her iPhone and closing the auction with ATT and Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection features. The point of the announcement isn’t just for Apple to throw just about every other tech company under the bus – it’s offering an alternative.
Obviously, Apple wants to highlight its own privacy-related features. It is, after all, an advertisement. That’s the goal – to sell you more iPhones with these features. You can agree with Apple’s view on privacy or you can say it’s interested, but you can’t blame Apple for having an opinion on privacy and then talking about what features it’s about. designed to give users more control.
By the way, Apple’s biggest opinion isn’t that there shouldn’t be personalized ads or that all ad tracking is bad. It’s just that people should have a choice. If a developer wants to create an app that collects your personal information and shares it with Facebook, that’s fine, they need to ask your permission first.
This is actually a powerful lesson for every business. If you’re building a product or service that depends on collecting user information and targeted advertising, you need to be honest about it and give those users a choice.
If your business model depends on users having no idea what you are doing with their personal information, you are wrong. You owe it to them to be transparent about the true cost of the products you sell to them, especially when that cost is their personal information. If you don’t, it looks like Apple will.
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