Apple claims to protect user privacy unless the law compels them, but I’m going to argue against that. I’m going to argue that Apple’s stance on privacy is just PR – a point of differentiation against its competitors without any real substance.
Now, technically, Apple doesn’t collect as much data as its competitors. That’s true. But it’s also irrelevant, because at the end of the day, your privacy isn’t any more protected if you use Apple products.
Let me explain myself. Apple products don’t exist in a vacuum. They’re highly interconnected platforms and at the centre of a large ecosystem of products. There’s mobile carrier providers (AT&T, Verizon, what have you), service providers (there are millions of little services inside your OS that you don’t know about. For instance, there might be a service that uses data about WiFi networks around you to provide better geo-location), apps, ad networks, and plain-old websites. All of these conspire together to collect the bulk of data about you, and Apple can’t do anything to stop them.
More importantly, I’m going to claim that it isn’t in Apple’s interest to stop them. You see, this data collection is what makes this ecosystem tick. And the ecosystem is why Apple really sells devices – you think people would buy iPhones if they didn’t have the app ecosystem? This is why the argument that “Apple’s business model isn’t to collect data – they make money from devices” is wrong. Why do you think these devices sell? It’s because the devices provide access to a huge ecosystem that is supported by gathering your data. So, people argue that Apple doesn’t collect and sell your phone call log data, or your messaging data, or your browsing data. But guess what? Other people do, and Apple happily provides them the platform to do so.
So yes, Apple should stop grand-standing about privacy. Because although they claim to protect it, they nevertheless build a platform that exists because of data gathering that they enable for other companies. If they truly believed in user privacy, they’d block all this tracking from their devices. But I doubt we’ll see that happen.