Apple’s stronger privacy protections strengthens its walled garden

Apple’s move to increase privacy strengthens its walled garden, John Thornhill opines for Financial Times, as the company will will present users with a prompt to allow apps to use tracking services for personalized advertising.

Apple App Store
Apple’s App Store

John Thornhill for Financial Times:

The assumption is that many will not [opt in to ad tracking], changing the game for advertisers, developers and companies that have built their services off such tools.

There are two concerns about Apple’s move: first, that it will not work; second, that it will work too well. As the Financial Times reported this week, Chinese companies appear to have developed a workaround to Apple’s tracking transparency initiative even before it has been launched. The state-backed China Advertising Association, boasting 2,000 members, has a new means of tracking and identifying iPhone users called CAID. Some of China’s biggest internet companies, including ByteDance and Tencent, are testing the tool.

The Chinese workaround creates a dilemma for Apple. It seems unlikely to cut off all Chinese companies using CAID given the intermingling of commercial and political power. Yet it cannot turn a blind eye to such violations without encouraging similar efforts elsewhere.

The second concern for Apple is whether the tightening of its privacy regime will only invite greater scrutiny of its market power by regulators… “If Apple cripples mobile advertising, then the App Store becomes the primary discovery point for apps again, and Apple decides how people use our iPhones,” Eric Seufert, a tech analyst, told the Stratechery site. “Apple is defining privacy as what benefits Apple.”

MacDailyNews Take: In a nutshell, the argument is that Apple wants to regain control by giving users control. If too many users opt out of tracking, then Apple’s walled garden becomes more important, Seufert argues.

We trust users to make better decisions for themselves versus having tracking going on in the background for which permission was never granted. If users want personalized ads, i.e. not get ads for snow blowers in Phoenix, then they should allow apps to track their activity.

More choice trumps no choice.

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 your data. — Steve Jobs


  1. Opt-in is better compared to simply asking to be tracked and/or victimized but is superior to Opt-out. Shithead US congress contravened California’s Opt-in law for robocalls which goes to kickbacks. Now I get 6 robocalls per day. Shithead congress. The do not call list is hacked. Robocallers disregard it anyway because of Trump’s deregulation.

  2. But what about all the straight white males spreading hate via iMessage and FaceTime? Will Apple shut down these apps until the existential threats are eliminated?

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