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On Apple and privacy protection

Apple Begins Selling iPhone 5 S/C In Berlin

In a recent piece for Macworld, security analyst Rich Mogull took a close look at Apple's privacy policies and was generally pleased with what he discovered. In a broad sense, Mogull found that Apple shied away from the boilerplate legalese that so often makes corporate privacy policies difficult to comprehend.

Specifically, Mogull highlights a number of instances where Apple's stance on privacy is to be admired. From Apple not sharing third personal information with third parties for marketing purposes to the Secure Enclave that houses a user's Touch ID information, Mogul writes that Apple has steadily increased the privacy protections it provides users.

With every iteration of OS X, iOS, and iCloud, we see Apple add increasing the privacy protections it provides its users. It has consistently enabled customers to protect their personal information from advertisers, governments, third-party developers, and even Apple itself.

Taking a step back, it's easy to see why Apple seemingly engenders more trust from users than other big name tech companies. Simply put, Apple's business model rests on selling hardware. As long as you purchase an iPhone, iPad or Mac, Apple doesn't really care who you are or what you do with your machine. At most, Apple might seek to gather basic user info at the point of purchase to help give it a better idea as to which demographics of users are purchasing what.

In stark contrast to this are companies like Google and Facebook who care about the most intimate details of its users because it helps them serve up targeted ads more efficiently. Facebook is incentivized to figure out how old you are, what TV shows you like, what music you listen to, what college you went to, etc. Similarly, it's in Google's best interest to know what products you're searching for, what websites you're visiting, and what your general interests are.

As a direct consequence of this, Apple can afford to enact privacy policies that are broader and more consumer friendly than companies whose business models treat consumer data as a commodity to be leveraged. As the old axiom goes, Apple's customers are its end users while Google's customer base is comprised of advertisers.

Mogull adds:

Corporations generally limit their altruism to charity, not to core product and business decisions. Apple likely sees a competitive advantage in privacy, especially when its biggest direct competition comes from advertising giant Google and the enterprise-friendly Microsoft. Apple believes consumers not only desire privacy, but will increasingly value privacy as a factor in their buying decisions.

Spot on.

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