Page 2 – Apple’s Privacy History and What Steve Jobs Thought

In contrast, the most popular argument about Apple is that the company can afford to care about privacy, because it makes its money on hardware. I’ve written about this before in my piece Apple’s Privacy is a Feature, Not a Hangup. The argument says that if Apple was more like Google and Facebook, it wouldn’t care about privacy so much. But Apple’s privacy stance began with Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs’s Remarks on Privacy

A well-known interview with Steve Jobs was in 2010 when Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg interviewed him:

Even 8 years ago Apple was thinking about the privacy of its customers, like with app permissions. Steve was saying that iOS makes sure to keep bugging users when an app requests their data.

Privacy means people know what they’re signing up for, in plain English, and repeatedly. I’m an optimist; I believe people are smart, and some people want to share more data than other people do. Ask them. Ask them every time. Make them tell you to stop asking them if they get tired of your asking them. Let them know precisely what you’re going to do with their data.

This is where my argument starts. When I judge something, whether it be a person or a company, I tend to look at their actions, not just what they say. People can and will say anything, including: Actions speak louder than words.

True, those are “just” the words of Steve Jobs. But here are the actions: Technologies like encryption, differential privacy, Touch ID and Face ID, the Secure Enclave, strict App Store guidelines, etc. Apple is going out of its way to make its products and services private.

I’m not here to take pot shots at Mr. Zuckerberg or even defend Apple. Apple doesn’t need bloggers like me to defend it. But I think you either believe that Apple cares about privacy, or it doesn’t. There is no “Apple cares because they can afford to”. There is no “If Facebook and Apple switched places, Apple would advertise and Facebook would be private.” Those arguments are fallacious and seems to me an example of “whataboutism.”

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aardman

What Facebook has essentially done is collected information that has given the most nefarious and shady operators such as Cambridge Analytica the ability to Gaslight a whole nation. He keeps saying that FB mishandled the data and allowed the wrong people to get it. No, no, no! That kind of data should never be gathered and stored in the first placed. Much less sold to vendors and ‘researchers’. In the same way that subliminal advertising is deemed to be harmful and banning it is not an assault on free speech, prohibiting the gathering of the type of information that makes… Read more »

Apple has always taken privacy far more serious than any other company in the World. They did not fight the FBI and the US government for encryption for no reason. Every policy they have privacy is part of it. Other companies like Google it might be marketing hype but not Apple.

wab95

Andrew: First of all, congratulations on a well-written, thoughtful and evidence-supported editorial. This is the kind of high quality thought piece to that has become the stock and trade of TMO, and distinguishes the site from a majority of its competitor tech sites for not being the exception but the norm of its commentary and analyses. There is nothing more of substance to add here but a relevant observation. This week, Mark Zuckerberg appears before the US Senate and House on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, for testimony on not simply the exploitation of FB by Russian agents to influence the… Read more »

NorthSaanichBC

Zuckerberg is lashing out in frustration (and hopefully also in embarrassment) at Tim Cook, knowing that he has been exposed again as being unethical and blatantly dishonest.

He is asking the world to trust him (again) despite his continually being revealed to be deceitful and deceptive, and his constant reluctance to make necessary changes to Facebook to protect user privacy.

vpndev

Apple has certainly left huge piles of money on the table because its privacy policies and I am firmly convinced that this was/is absolutely the right decision. I watched the Tim Cook discussion this evening (MSNBC/ReCode event) and was quietly bemused by Tim’s response to what he would do if he were Mark Zuckerberg right now. His too-gentle response was that “he would be in that situation”. I would have responded that “I would find a restroom for a change of underwear”. Unfortunately for FB, and fortunately for us, it is facing a double-whammy for which it is ill-prepared. Folks… Read more »

Lee Dronick

I too watched Tim on MSNBC. I have never watched NRA TV, but I will give it a “shot” to see what it is like before commenting on its appropriateness for being on Apple TV. Of course if Apple removed it, an ammosexual could always watch it on Safari.

Lee Dronick

Well I don’t see the NRA Channel on my Apple TV, maybe because I have on older model.

aardman

Apple has left money on the table because it didn’t want to compromise on its privacy stance. For one thing, they’ve lagged in AI because they didn’t want to send personal info outside the device and into the cloud for (vastly more powerful) servers to do the heavy AI lifting. With all the information they could have gathered from the highest spending demographic of the tech customer population, they could easily make a killing selling data and ads to advertisers but they turned their back on that lucrative opportunity as well. So Tim Cook sounds a little eager to piss… Read more »

Lee Dronick

I well understand the privacy risks when using Facebook and am very careful not to use 3rd party Facebook apps, sign into websites with my Facebook account, and don’t join any of their sugggested groups. I do find the service handy for keeping in touch with out-of-area family and friends, making new friends, and such. Privacy aside I have issues with their horrid newsfeed algorithm. I often don’t see posts that I would want to see, but see shared crap that Facebook thinks that want to see no matter how many times I have clicked Hide Post. Choosing Show Recent… Read more »

geoduck

I just ignore the Facebook “newsfeed”. Even before they got hijacked by trolls in ’16 I knew they couldn’t be trusted.

Lee Dronick

Not the “news” that they link to, but the feed of people on my friends list

geoduck

Ah. Yes that is true too.

geoduck

Ah. Yes that is true. Like a stream of conciseness from someone with multiple personalities.

geoduck

Absolutely right. As the article says actions speak louder. Apple’s proactive stand against the FBI on implementing a back door is all the evidence I need to believe they are serious about privacy. It cost them points in Washington. It cost them reputation in the eyes of some, uninformed, citizenry. It may have even cost them some sales. But they did it because it was, and is, the right thing to do.

John Kheit

Nice article Andrew. Agreed. If any one company cares about privacy in tech, it’s apple, and they are pretty lonely in that position.