Apple Takes Strong Pro-Privacy Stance

Last week on the official Apple website, CEO Tim Cook issued a statement regarding the company’s position on privacy. The post, simply titled “A message from Tim Cook about Apple’s commitment to your privacy”, is timely considering that the new iPhone 6 models were both spoofed last week and Apple was also attached to the controversy surrounding celebrity photo leaks this summer.

Cook writes:

“A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realize that when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product. But at Apple, we believe a great customer experience shouldn’t come at the expense of your privacy.”

Cook explains that despite the fact that serving advertisers is a small part of Apple’s business, iAd adheres to the company’s universal privacy policy, which he summarizes as telling users up front about what data they are sharing and asking permission to use it. If a user wants to opt out of the sharing, Apple is committed to making the opt out process as easy as possible.

The Apple CEO finishes with a definitive statement clearing the air surrounding any possible company involvement in surveillance programs like PRISM:

“Finally, I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will.”

Though this pro-privacy stance will no doubt be welcomed by the over 10 million users that bought one of the new iPhone 6 models over last week’s record breaking launch weekend, personalities from all across the Internet are seeing it as more than just assurance.

Russell Brandom over at The Verge sees the privacy statement as a direct shot a Google, whose business model is built on selling user information. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal’s Diasuke Wakabayashi has taken an in-depth look at how Apple’s iAd – which does target users based on age, gender, home address and iTunes downloads – differs from the competition.

Overall, the reaction has been very positive. Privacy is arguably the most important topic in mobility and identity management at the moment, and for Apple to take such a strong stance in favor of a user’s right to have control over her personal data will undoubtedly push the discussion further to the front of everyone’s mind. That said, Cook’s statement had nothing to say about forcing a new U2 album on everyone with an iTunes account.