Is Apple really as privacy focused as they market?

The short answer: No. Apple sells advertising space the same as Google does.

Most of us have probably seen this ad before:

It's simple and effective. It sends a definitive message that "Apple isn't like Google. Apple doesn't sell your data". It also plays on our primal fears of being spied upon.

I remember one thing in particular my C|EH instructor said years ago; "People are significantly more likely to trust the information on their phone over their computer". He would go on to explain how we associate our phones as part of us. Our phones go everywhere with us. They're around when we shower, they're present during dinner with kids, they're nearby during intimate times with our significant others. People value their phones, so when you tell someone that their phone isn't safe it causes concern.

That's exactly what Apple played on with this ad; "We're not like Google. You're private device stays private.", only that's not true. Or at least it's only half true. What this should really say is "What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone if you don't connect it to the internet."

This isn't the first time Apple has used half truths in their marketing. Most of the Mac vs PC commercials were half truths:

Macs are Immune to viruses like the commercial implies. They simply weren't popular enough for people to target (same with you Chromebooks.)

This one is my personal favorite. Back in the day Apple used to sell painless upgrades. No opening the system to upgrade it; however, what they were doing was putting software locks on the hardware in the system. So if you bought a computer with 2GB of RAM it might actually have 8GB of RAM but you could only use 2 of it without paying more.

I'm not going to go through all of the times Apple has used half truths in marketing, just know that this isn't unusual. What I am going to do is go to the website they show right there and show you what their legal actually says.

www.Apple.com/privacy is a very sharp looking website. It's well designed and appears to be in simple language, but like most things Apple does it's full of half truths.


"Apple can’t read your iMessages while they’re being sent between you and the person you’re texting."


That sounds like a really privacy contientious move on Apple's part but again, that is purposefully misleading. It doesn't say Apple can't read your messages, only that they can't read them when they're being sent. If you expand that section it becomes a bit more clear what they're actually saying.


"Every blue-bubble message, picture, Animoji, and video is encrypted while being sent between devices."


What they're really saying is that while the iMessage is in transit it can't be read, but once you open it on your phone they can read it. Also they're specifically only reffering to iMessages. Texts sent over regular SMS will still be read.


I particularly love this one:


"Sign in with Apple is a convenient way to sign in to apps and sites while having more control over the information you share. Apps are restricted to asking only for your name and email address, and Apple won’t track your app activity or build a profile of you."


Is that right? What does Apple's Legal Policy state?


"When you create an Apple ID, apply for commercial credit, purchase a product, download a software update, register for a class at an Apple Retail Store, connect to our services, contact us including by social media or participate in an online survey, we may collect a variety of information, including your name, mailing address, phone number, email address, contact preferences, device identifiers, IP address, location information, credit card information and profile information..."

"We also use personal information to help us create, develop, operate, deliver, and improve our products, services, content and advertising, and for loss prevention and anti-fraud purposes. "

"We may also use personal information for internal purposes such as auditing, data analysis, and research to improve Apple’s products, services, and customer communications."

"

  • We may collect information such as occupation, language, zip code, area code, unique device identifier, referrer URL, location, and the time zone where an Apple product is used so that we can better understand customer behavior and improve our products, services, and advertising.
  • We may collect information regarding customer activities on our website, iCloud services, our iTunes Store, App Store, Mac App Store, App Store for Apple TV and iBooks Stores and from our other products and services. This information is aggregated and used to help us provide more useful information to our customers and to understand which parts of our website, products, and services are of most interest. Aggregated data is considered non‑personal information for the purposes of this Privacy Policy.
  • We may collect and store details of how you use our services, including search queries. This information may be used to improve the relevancy of results provided by our services. Except in limited instances to ensure quality of our services over the Internet, such information will not be associated with your IP address.
  • With your explicit consent, we may collect data about how you use your device and applications in order to help app developers improve their apps.

"

"Apple’s websites, online services, interactive applications, email messages, and advertisements may use "cookies" and other technologies such as pixel tags and web beacons. These technologies help us better understand user behavior, tell us which parts of our websites people have visited, and facilitate and measure the effectiveness of advertisements and web searches. "

"Ads that are delivered by Apple’s advertising platform may appear in Apple News and in the App Store. If you do not wish to receive ads targeted to your interests from Apple's advertising platform, you can choose to enable Limit Ad Tracking, which will opt your Apple ID out of receiving such ads regardless of what device you are using. If you enable Limit Ad Tracking on your mobile device, third-party apps cannot use the Advertising Identifier, a non-personal device identifier, to serve you targeted ads. You may still see ads in the App Store or News based on context like your search query or the channel you are reading. In third-party apps, you may see ads based on other information. "


I could go on but that last paragraph is really the whole reason behind this. Google gets a lot of flack for "selling people's data" (something they don't do which I'll talk about in another article). What Google really is doing is selling the means for ads to reach the targt demographic. Apple in this regard is no different. They have an advertising platform which is built into every Apple device made. They have the means of delivering ads directly to the consumer.


Apple doesn't sell your data because they don't need to. As soon as they sell you're data it becomes less valuable. What Apple does is no different then Google. They sell marketers a way to reach the people they want, and they do this by datamining off your most personal devices. Don't be fooled by Apple's clever marketing. Your iPhone isn't like Vegas. What happens there stays between you and Apple....so maybe it is like Vegas after all.