Apple’s Privacy is a Feature, Not a Hangup

5 minute read
| Editorial

In the latest article from CNBC, Eric Johnson starts off by telling us that Apple recently hired two Sony TV execs…and then weirdly derails the conversation to talk about privacy instead. I’m not sure what privacy has to do with Apple’s television ambitions, but there it is. His premise seems to be that privacy is holding back Apple Music’s success, so let’s talk about how Apple handles privacy.

Apple and Android fighting with laser swords

Privacy Is a Right

Privacy should be the default of any service, period. When you’re creating a new app, service or other product, start with the premise that your users should have privacy. As an Apple customer, privacy is one of the reasons why I choose to own its products. That doesn’t make me a criminal. It doesn’t mean I’m hiding anything. It means that I have a reasonable expectation that companies shouldn’t know more things about me than is necessary to build their products.

Glenn Greenwald, in a TED Talk called Why Privacy Matters, said it best (emphasis mine):

Over the last 16 months, as I’ve debated this issue around the world, every single time somebody has said to me, “I don’t really worry about invasions of privacy because I don’t have anything to hide.” I always say the same thing to them. I get out a pen, I write down my email address. I say, “Here’s my email address. What I want you to do when you get home is email me the passwords to all of your email accounts, not just the nice, respectable work one in your name, but all of them, because I want to be able to just troll through what it is you’re doing online, read what I want to read and publish whatever I find interesting. After all, if you’re not a bad person, if you’re doing nothing wrong, you should have nothing to hide.” Not a single person has taken me up on that offer.

Privacy Is A Service

Now that the right to privacy is covered, it’s gotten to the point where privacy is considered to be a selling point. It shouldn’t be like this. Everyone should value privacy. In his article, Mr. Johnson compares and contrasts various free services to Apple’s paid services. To use the cliche, this is an apples and oranges argument (no pun intended). How a company implements machine learning shouldn’t mean that privacy is thrown out the window.

Spotify knows what music you like better than you do. Apple Music gives you the world but doesn’t have that same magical insight into you — but you have better privacy.

Personally, I’ve never used Spotify, so I can’t make an honest comparison between it and Apple Music (which I do use). But Apple Music is still capable of suggesting songs you might like with a weekly For You playlist. I’ve personally discovered great music this way. All I had to do to tap the Love button on songs I like, and Dislike on the songs I don’t.

In this way, you’re training Apple’s algorithms, and not sacrificing your privacy. Apple personalizes your music and keeps your data on your device.  I’m not sure what “magical insight” Spotify has that Apple Music doesn’t. Please let me know.

Apple's privacy and machine learning include voluntary analytics so they're Opt-in, not opt-out.

Apple’s privacy and machine learning include voluntary analytics. Opt-in, not opt-out.

Next up: Privacy in photos and video streaming

4 Comments Add a comment

    • Thanks Liz, that was a great interview you did as well. It’s my belief that Apple’s privacy stance will continue to strengthen, not get weaker. I hope more companies will do the same.

  1. Jamie

    This is why I stick with them, and will, as long as they continue this policy. I think most of the stuff the ‘new’ Apple is doing (it’s all stuff other companies have already tried, or attempts at becoming something they will just never be) is poop, but the products I do like are terrific, and to the best of my knowledge, they are the only company their size taking this stance on privacy. Bravo, Apple.

Add a Comment

Log in to comment (TMO, Twitter, Facebook) or Register for a TMO Account