During the 2019 Computer Electronics Show (CES), Apple purchased a billboard claiming, “what happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.” Following the recent Facebook scandal pertaining to a breach of privacy and security among other things, many have become skeptical regarding other tech companies. It is important for us to understand what exactly we are trading off in exchange for the benefits that these tech companies can provide through our phones, tablets, computers, and other devices. Let’s take a look at how companies are dealing with this privacy issue.
Most of us know about Google and its omnipresence in the internet. This is true whether it be the Google search engine, Youtube, or the many other Google services attached to web pages that we visit daily. Today, it is undeniable that we rely on Google a lot. So much so that we have begun using the term colloquially as a verb. What some are unaware of, however, is that all the data accumulated from your search histories, the Google Chrome web browser, or on your Google Drives is stored.
Your data is readily available to you via a download request that will show you just how much information about you that Google has accumulated throughout the years. Your data is primarily used to help provide relevant ads unless you specifically opt out from the service. Like Facebook, Google’s ad networks are massive. Together, these two companies form a monopoly over the online ad market, as every little bit of data they provide becomes a significant source of revenue.
Although this is true, Google is renowned for its added convenience and efficient services. It is undeniable that it provides numerous benefits that may not be found through Apple. But, at what cost?
Apple predominantly makes their money through selling devices and associated services including apps and subscriptions like Apple Music and iCloud. On the other hand, Google funds Android and Chrome OS through services such as its search engines and Gmail. This difference in revenue generation makes all the difference when it comes to privacy.
With Google Maps, when location services are enabled, many useful features are provided like live traffic and congestion reports. Although this information is private to you, it is still stored under Google services. As well, all historical data remains saved, such as your locations and modes of transport, despite turning off your location services.
With Apple Maps, Apple does not have access to your information and history. Much of the processing is done through the device which may not be as efficient as Google, but does the job of providing more security. Your data is thus only accessible to you and within your control.
Siri does not provide the same quality or amount of services as Google or Alexa. Again, this is because your data is not being constantly stored. Under your “data and personalization” page on Google, you are able to access an active log of every time you have spoken to your Google Home and phone. Understandably, this is done to train the algorithm and provide higher quality performance and improvements, but your privacy, again, is being compromised.
This tech giant has claimed to dominate the industry in terms of security and privacy. Safari, Apple’s browser, has strong anti-tracking policies and protectionist safeguards. Some of which include intelligent tracking protection that is capable of blocking unwanted cookies, deleting old things that no longer is being used, and keeping third-party websites from tracking you. In other words, these new regulations give you more control over how your data is used and when. It further differentiates itself from other companies like Facebook and Google by scrambling and encrypting your information. Therefore, it analyzes patterns of usage rather than specifics that could be traced back to who it is coming from.
However, that is not to say that Apple does not sell ads. It differs from other companies in that it does so in a much smaller scale and is based on your history gathered from the News app and the App Store.
Although Apple does seem to be a promising move forward in protecting your privacy, there remains problematic areas. When addressing the App Store specifically, independent iPhone apps still have the capacity to misuse data. iPhone app developers have been, and remain to be, allowed to store and sell data from users. This includes contacts, phone numbers, photos, and even addresses. Consequently, Apple may not be aware of the use of and movement of our data. To combat this issue, Apple has added a rule to its app developer contract prohibiting the storage and sale of such data, but many argue that there are not enough accountability measures for Apple to follow through with reprimanding violators.
The Verdict: What Should You Purchase?
This question lies with the consumer. In short, figure out what is best for you and your needs. It is a matter of preferences and whether you value convenience and more enhanced and efficient services over privacy. Understand how your information is being kept and learn what your device is capable of accumulating. Additionally, be mindful of what your are trading off and where you want to draw the line. Undoubtedly, many of these data-storing services are used today to our benefit.
Key things to be wary of:
- Double check whether things like your location services are on when you want or don’t want them.
- Understand that no database is impenetrable. Hence, risk is always present, but perhaps in different magnitudes.