Apple turns privacy into a business advantage
Apple on Monday unveiled new versions of its operating systems, which showed that the company’s focus on privacy has taken a new turn. It is no longer just a business ideal or a marketing argument. It is now a major initiative across Apple that sets its products apart from the Android and Windows competition.
Apple has positioned itself as the most privacy-sensitive large tech company since Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote an open letter on the subject. in 2014. Since then, Apple has introduced new iPhone features that restrict app access to personal data and widely advertise privacy in TV commercials.
But Monday’s announcements showed that Apple’s privacy strategy is now part of its products: privacy has been mentioned in almost every new feature and has got its own staging time.
The privacy-focused features and apps Apple announced on Monday for the upcoming iOS 15 or MacOS Monterey operating systems included:
- No tracking pixels. The Mail app will now run images through proxy servers to defeat tracking pixels that tell email marketers when and where messages were opened.
- Private relay. Subscribers to Apple’s iCloud storage service will get a feature called iCloud + that includes Private Relay, a service that masks users’ IP addresses, which are often used to infer location. An Apple representative said it was not a virtual private network, a type of service often used by privacy-sensitive people to access web content in areas where it is restricted. Instead, Apple will forward web traffic to both an Apple server and a third-party managed proxy server to remove credentials.
- Hide my email. ICloud subscribers will be able to create and use temporary and anonymous email addresses, sometimes called burner addresses, in the Mail app.
- Application privacy report. In the iPhone’s settings, Apple will tell you which servers the apps connect to, highlighting which apps collect data and send it to third parties that the user doesn’t recognize. It will also tell users how often apps are using the microphone and camera.
With a focus on privacy, Apple is building on one of its main strengths. Increasingly, data is processed on local devices, such as a computer or phone, instead of being sent back to large servers for analysis. It’s both more private, since the data doesn’t live on a server, and potentially faster from a technical point of view.
Because Apple designs both the iPhone and the processors that offer high processing power with low power consumption, it is best to offer an alternative view to the Android developer. Google which has essentially built its activity around Internet services.
This engineering distinction has given rise to several new apps and features that do a lot more processing on the phone than in the cloud, including:
- Local Siri. Apple said on Monday that Siri no longer needed to send audio recordings to a server to understand what they were saying. Instead, Apple’s voice recognition and processors are powerful enough to do them over the phone. This is a major difference from other assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, which uses servers to decipher speech. It could also make Siri faster.
- Automatically organize photos. Apple’s Photos app can now use AI software to identify items in your photo library, such as pets, vacation spots, friends, and family, and automatically organize them into galleries and animations, sometimes with musical accompaniment. Many of these features are available in Google Photos, but Google’s software requires all photos to be uploaded to the cloud. Apple’s technology can scan on the device and even search the content of photos with text.
Apple’s privacy infrastructure also allows it to expand into important new markets such as online payments, identity and healthcare, both from a product and marketing perspective.
It can create new products while being sure to follow best practices so as not to collect unnecessary data or violate policies such as the strict European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Additionally, users may feel more comfortable with features that deal with data or sensitive topics, such as finance or healthcare, because they trust Apple and its approach to data.
The features Apple introduced on Monday show how the company is using its user data position to enter these lucrative markets.
- Gait health tracking and medical records sharing. Apple’s health app can now use readings from an iPhone, such a movement when the user walks, to warn them that they could risk a dangerous fall because they walk unsteadily. Apple will also allow users who connect their iPhone to the medical records system to share these records with a doctor, friends or family. Health data is among the most regulated types of data, and it’s hard to see Apple introduce these features unless you are sure you have a good reputation with customers and internal skills in handling sensitive data. . “Privacy is fundamental in the design and development of all of our health features,” said an Apple engineer during the feature’s presentation.
- Government IDs, key cards and car keys in the Wallet app. Apple used its trust in privacy and security when it launched Apple Card, its credit card with Goldman Sachs, in which users sign up for a line of credit almost entirely in the app. . Now Apple has introduced several new features for the Wallet app that are most appealing to users who think Apple’s security and privacy are up to par. In iOS 15, Apple will allow users to put car or house keys in their wallet app, which means all someone needs to get in is their phone. Apple also said, without much detail, that it was working with the Transportation Security Administration to also put U.S. ID cards, like a driver’s license, in the Wallet app.
Cook said that “privacy is a fundamental human right” and that company policies and personal position have nothing to do with commerce or Apple products.
But being the big tech company that takes data issues seriously could end up being lucrative and give Apple more freedom to launch new services and products. Facebook, Apple’s neighbor in Silicon Valley and voice critic of Apple, has increasingly treated new product launch challenges due to the company’s bad reputation for the way it handles user data.
Americans also say privacy is factored into purchasing decisions. A 2020 Pew study said 52% of Americans decided not to use a product or service because of data protection concerns.