21 votes

App tracking alert in iOS 13 has dramatically cut location data flow to ad industry

16 comments

  1. [15]
    kfwyre
    Link
    This is somewhat of an aside, but I figure this is a good place to ask it: is Apple's current prioritization of privacy genuine or mostly marketing? It's hard to find a clear answer to this in...

    This is somewhat of an aside, but I figure this is a good place to ask it: is Apple's current prioritization of privacy genuine or mostly marketing? It's hard to find a clear answer to this in privacy-related circles, which are often filled with lots of unsubstantiated allegations and suspicion of nearly everything.

    8 votes
    1. Deimos
      Link Parent
      There's a bit of both to it. Their privacy approaches generally are better, but since they don't have a significant advertising component to their business, it's easier for them to behave that...

      There's a bit of both to it. Their privacy approaches generally are better, but since they don't have a significant advertising component to their business, it's easier for them to behave that way.

      Ben Thompson, who writes the tech-industry/business site Stratechery, has a term for this that I really like: "strategy credit". His definition is:

      Strategy Credit: An uncomplicated decision that makes a company look good relative to other companies who face much more significant trade-offs.

      If you click through to the article, Apple's privacy stance is one of the main things that he came up with the term to describe. Their business mostly wouldn't be helped by retaining a ton of data (though that's less clear recently as they're starting lean more heavily on services), so it's relatively safe for them to collect less data than other companies want to.

      18 votes
    2. babypuncher
      Link Parent
      It's for marketing, but it's backed by the fact that Apple's business model isn't built around shoving ads in your face or selling your data. Many tech companies make money by selling you...

      It's for marketing, but it's backed by the fact that Apple's business model isn't built around shoving ads in your face or selling your data. Many tech companies make money by selling you discounted hardware or giving you a free service in exchange for your privacy. Apple makes money by selling hardware at a premium and selling you services. They have determined that there is a substantial market that is willing to pay more money for goods and services rather than get a discount in exchange for privacy.

      11 votes
    3. [6]
      stu2b50
      Link Parent
      How would you tell? Apple has always been great on certain things. Tangential to privacy, Apple's security is always top notch. The iOS security whitepaper is brilliant, and is legitimately used...

      Apple's current prioritization of privacy genuine or mostly marketing?

      How would you tell?

      Apple has always been great on certain things. Tangential to privacy, Apple's security is always top notch. The iOS security whitepaper is brilliant, and is legitimately used as teaching material at the best university's for CS in the world.

      Furthermore, Apple, unlike Google, Facebook, and Amazon (though less so than the others) do not make business for selling ads. So there's no incentive for them to track or help track user activity.

      And part of it that doesn't necessarily play into profits is that Apple, as people well know, loves to be authoritative on what they consider "correct". They're not afraid to pull off what they consider as bandaids.

      32bit support? Gone

      Headphone jack? Gone

      Variety of ports? Gone

      7 votes
      1. [4]
        gpl
        Link Parent
        This is the biggest thing that makes me lean towards apple in privacy matters (not unquestionably, just slightly). Apple has a product, and it's not you.

        Furthermore, Apple, unlike Google, Facebook, and Amazon (though less so than the others) do not make business for selling ads. So there's no incentive for them to track or help track user activity.

        This is the biggest thing that makes me lean towards apple in privacy matters (not unquestionably, just slightly). Apple has a product, and it's not you.

        9 votes
        1. [3]
          Keegan
          Link Parent
          Yep. I'm certainly considering my next phone to be an iPhone unless Google somehow gets rid of all the issues with their ecosystem (crapware preinstalled on most devices, amount of junk on Play...

          Yep. I'm certainly considering my next phone to be an iPhone unless Google somehow gets rid of all the issues with their ecosystem (crapware preinstalled on most devices, amount of junk on Play Store, etc.). I've had enough of the random bugs, short support for most devices, and the inconsistent design of base system apps.

          6 votes
          1. vegai
            Link Parent
            I don't see how they could ever get rid of their fundamental problems related to privacy, given that their whole business is centered on violating privacy.

            Google somehow gets rid of all the issues with their ecosystem

            I don't see how they could ever get rid of their fundamental problems related to privacy, given that their whole business is centered on violating privacy.

            10 votes
          2. ali
            Link Parent
            I have been using android since the htc desire and now I was using an iPhone SE for half a year until I got an iPhone 11 last week. The price tag hurts but I have been very happy with the devices...

            I have been using android since the htc desire and now I was using an iPhone SE for half a year until I got an iPhone 11 last week. The price tag hurts but I have been very happy with the devices so far

            5 votes
      2. weystrom
        Link Parent
        I don't care about ports as much, it's easy to just buy the right accessories and cables (you don't have to live the dongle life if everything is USB-C), but the lack of filesystem access is...

        I don't care about ports as much, it's easy to just buy the right accessories and cables (you don't have to live the dongle life if everything is USB-C), but the lack of filesystem access is what's killed iOS for me. It's just so inconvenient so sync files to my phone if I don't want to use iCloud.

        3 votes
    4. [3]
      joplin
      Link Parent
      Keeping in mind that Apple is not a single entity, but a very large group of people (over 100,000 at this point), I'm sure there are people with a variety of thoughts on the subject within Apple....

      Keeping in mind that Apple is not a single entity, but a very large group of people (over 100,000 at this point), I'm sure there are people with a variety of thoughts on the subject within Apple. That said, direction often comes from the top, and I'd think that as a gay man Tim Cook fully understands the value of privacy. I think that he has personally set that direction for the company and sincerely believes in the idea of privacy himself. Whether the people implementing it share his (or your, or my) vision is another story, but I think it gives us a clue as to their thoughts.

      Contrast that with Google's Eric Schmidt who thinks "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place.". I think that speaks volumes about Google.

      6 votes
      1. [2]
        Diff
        Link Parent
        Personal values aren't a perfect indicator though. Mark Zuckerberg bought the houses on either side of his and has decoy trash cans with men guarding them. But when it comes to other people he's...

        Personal values aren't a perfect indicator though. Mark Zuckerberg bought the houses on either side of his and has decoy trash cans with men guarding them. But when it comes to other people he's happy to track them everywhere they go, online and off.

        7 votes
        1. joplin
          Link Parent
          Haha! Fair point!

          Haha! Fair point!

          1 vote
    5. NaraVara
      Link Parent
      I think it's baked into the company culture. Not the privacy bit specifically, but the way they approach things just naturally leads them to have better stances on privacy. Asking whether it's...

      I think it's baked into the company culture. Not the privacy bit specifically, but the way they approach things just naturally leads them to have better stances on privacy. Asking whether it's "genuine" or "marketing" is like asking me if I do martial arts because it's good exercise or because I genuinely enjoy it. It's both.

      It's not just that Apple doesn't make its money by hoovering up data. It's more that, as a company, they're big on making a cool thing you want and charging you money for it. For some reason, much of corporate America has tried to move away from that basic thing and try to do exotic methods of extracting revenue like financing schemes or whatever. But Apple has always just been kind of like "Here's a cool thing and here's what it costs." They don't even really do sales or discounts that much aside from the modest education discounts they offer to students.

      4 votes
    6. [2]
      tempestoftruth
      Link Parent
      The short answer is, what they offer in terms of privacy is fine for the average user. The long answer is it depends on what your threat model looks like. Unless Apple made all of their source...

      is Apple's current prioritization of privacy genuine or mostly marketing?

      The short answer is, what they offer in terms of privacy is fine for the average user. The long answer is it depends on what your threat model looks like.

      Unless Apple made all of their source code open for viewing, there's no way to verify whether or not their claims about privacy are true. There's a few things we do know; for example, placing a password on your iPhone will encrypt the device and make its contents inaccessible without the password. Because this feature is the default implementation, it's an effective security feature for iPhone users. I use a decently long alphanumeric password for security reasons (and to prevent police officers from ordering me to open my device in the event that occurs).

      Generally, unless you can verify these things yourself or you can trust a third-party audit of the software in question, you shouldn't trust that it's keeping you secure or private. Because of my priorities (and also what I look for in phone design) I'm fine using an Apple product, but if your threat model does not allow for Apple possibly spying on your activities (e.g. reading your Notes app or tracking keystrokes) then you should not use one.

      My personal opinion, which you can take with a grain of salt, is that all their noise about privacy is meaningless unless they were to open all their source code in order to verify that what they say is true.

      3 votes
      1. stu2b50
        Link Parent
        We actually know a fuckton about how Apple secures your devices, because while the source is not released, the systems are all published, because Apple does adhere to Shannon's Maxim (here, 142...

        We actually know a fuckton about how Apple secures your devices, because while the source is not released, the systems are all published, because Apple does adhere to Shannon's Maxim (here, 142 pages of very well written security documentation: https://manuals.info.apple.com/MANUALS/1000/MA1902/en_US/apple-platform-security-guide.pdf) and Apple's iOS security is a shining example of what you should do.

        They do much more than most phone manufacturers, including extremely paranoid and careful selection for their TCBs, literally having a separate chip completely isolated that handles system-wide encryption.

        9 votes
  2. feigneddork
    Link
    As someone who has an Android phone and has tried to use an iPhone in the past but didn't really enjoy it, good on Apple for this feature. If there's anything the software industry needs, it is a...

    As someone who has an Android phone and has tried to use an iPhone in the past but didn't really enjoy it, good on Apple for this feature. If there's anything the software industry needs, it is a serious clampdown on the pervaisiveness of data collection for the sake of data collection.

    If Apple didn't bother putting this in iOS, I'd doubt it would incentivise Google to do the same. But even still, I know the problem is so much more severe than just collecting location in the background. I made a post on it, and this problem is prevalent on both Android and iOS phones, so while this is good, it's just scratching the surface IMHO.

    3 votes