Apple & Facebook: Much ado about nothing

Steve Wozniak's signature on an Apple I at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California

Visit any major European website and you’ll likely be confronted with a privacy notice, explaining what information is gathered about you, and for what purpose. The Times has a particularly full featured implementation, explaining feature and purpose of every cookie dropped on your browser.

These opt in consents are a product of the EU GDPR: a set of of regulations adopted in 2016 with the goal of giving EU individuals more information and control about how their information is used by web publishers.

You may well just hit ‘accept all’ - it’s easier than wading through a bunch of technobabble after all. But at least you had the opportunity to consent.

Mobile apps, being a newer technology, don’t have the same regulatory framework as yet. Apple isn’t waiting, gradually increasing user focused privacy controls and capabilities with each iOS release. The latest set of controls, with iOS 14, bring a GDPR like set of disclosures to iOS apps. Developers must describe how apps are using data and ask users to opt-in rather than opt-out of cross app tracking.

As a company that does very well out of this tracking, Facebook is not taking this lying down, launching a campaign that cites the possible impacts on small businesses.

That seems like a bunch of BS to me. Small businesses did fine when they advertised (without tracking) in newspapers, windows and yellow pages. Further they weren’t having to deal with scammers (ironically on Facebook) stealing their adverts to ship crap. The key is a level playing field. If your competitor is using personalized adverts, maybe you should. If that’s not available to either of you, what’s the problem?

Small business will survive and thrive using the same techniques that have always worked: proximity to the customer, great service, word-of-mouth.

So, kudos to Apple on this one. As the EFF argues, your move Google. Don’t hold your breath: Apple has a business model that permits them to promote privacy. Others, not so much.