Apple Stakes Its Claim as a Privacy Leader

In the last few years, consumer privacy has become a very important part of the tech landscape. Investigative reporting has shown the extent to which Big Tech tracks our online activity. Apple has been a leader among tech firms, creating solutions to increase privacy protections. Recently, according to 9 to 5 Mac, the company has dropped out of an industry trade group over its perceived weak privacy laws.

Apple chief executive officer (CEO), Tim Cook believes that the State Privacy and Security Coalition (SPSC), run by multinational law firm, DLA Piper, is more focused on lobbying for privacy laws that benefit industry firms, instead of its consumers. Apple believes that the slate of legislation that the SPSC is pushing for adversely affects the protection of user data.

The SPSC denies these charges, saying that the legislation it supports will, instead, establish consistent guardrails for consumer data.

Nonetheless, many experts believe that this legislation actually benefits Big Tech more so than Apple’s proposals and policies. One example of such a bill is legislation in Utah, which, if passed, would give financial institutions many exemptions and give them as much as a month to deal with any privacy violations before Utah’s state government could bring proceedings against it.

Cook has made Apple the tech leader when it comes to privacy protection. In recognition of that fact, he will headline the International Association of Privacy Professionals’ global privacy summit on April 12.

His most consequential decision as head of Apple has been changing the default settings of the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), so that Apple consumers have to explicitly request to be tracked, in order for advertisers to track them across Apple platforms. The move is widely seen as one of, if not the biggest move made by a tech firm to protect consumer privacy. Defaults matter, and by switching defaults to a more privacy focused setting, Apple shook the business model of firms such as Meta (then Facebook), whose business model thrived on access to consumer data.

Awareness of the erosion of privacy protections in recent years has made having tools such as a privacy screen protector absolutely essential for consumers. Cooks wants Apple to become the market leader for privacy protection. More and more consumers care about their privacy and they will increasingly turn to solutions provided by businesses who give them control of their privacy.

The internet naturally creates and propagates data, and balancing privacy concerns with the natural form of the internet, is one of the great challenges of our time. Big Tech firms are seen as having an inordinate amount of data about their consumers. Some businesses, such as search engine company DuckDuckGo, believe that the amount of data that Big Tech possesses, and more broadly, which many businesses have, goes beyond what they need to deliver their key services.

Governments have become more involved in efforts to regulate Big Tech, but differences remain in how easily regulatory reform is achieved in the European Union, where regulation is avowedly political and hence, easier to achieve, than in the United States, where justices are bound by antiquated legal scaffolding.