Who really knows how much real anger, how much real dismay, there is when the boss of the most valuable company in the world gets upset about something that is not far behind in the ranking. So when Apple CEO Tim Cook castigates the practice that companies like Facebook (and others) collect the data of Internet users and hawk access to it. And that the privacy of the user goes over the Jordan.
However you answer this question, anyone who is serious about the fact that humanity is not completely the victim of unbridled surveillance capitalism will not care what motives are behind Apple’s decision to curb data collection. The next version of Apple’s operating systems for iPhones, iPads and Apple TV will oblige the providers of apps to obtain the explicit consent of the users if they want to pass on data to third parties.
This is a first, a good step. But it’s also one that doesn’t particularly hurt Apple. The Californians mostly sell hardware like the iPhone, and they have spun a web of more and more services around it, from cloud storage to guided workouts for the home. Apple also has a small advertising business, but that hardly plays a role in the balance sheet.
So not only does Apple lose nothing by pretending to be a privacy saver, it can also win – for two reasons. First: After years in which tech companies grabbed what was possible in Wild West fashion, the mood has now changed. The big platform companies are facing more and more criticism and coercive measures are threatened. A data protection-friendly company might not be so tough on politics and authorities. Secondly, many users are noticeably uncomfortable when they constantly feel like a milking cow on the Internet, but have little chance of defending themselves – except for not using certain services. That could drive users concerned about their data more into Apple’s arms.
Apple, of course, is not a charity. Production takes place in low-wage countries, taxes are minimized like many other corporations with a thousand unfortunately legal tricks, and the App Store – the place where all the games and programs are – is a closed society: anyone who wants to offer an app for Apple , has to offer it there and pay part of the revenue to Apple.
Nevertheless: It is a different matter what platforms like Facebook, what advertising companies, which largely operate in the background, do with data from their users. Comparable to a mushroom mycelium that can stretch for kilometers beneath the surface, these companies are barely linked to one another for the user. And to get to the data, they can use almost any means. Controversial content pulls better? Then the algorithm prefers exactly that. The internet is safe and it is not the sole fault of the platforms that populism, nationalism, racism and anti-Semitism are growing in strength. But they have already helped a lot.
For the sake of honesty, however, one must also say that an effective remedy has not yet been found. Attempts to intervene by law seem helpless or overshoot the mark and endanger the rights of freedom. It’s really up to the users themselves. If you are serious about protecting your data, you should show it, a little discomfort is not enough.