#18 For Apple, Privacy is a Product
and a brand differentiator.
Disclaimers: I own AAPL 0.00%↑ stock and I used to work for Apple in retail.
People have been observing that Apple sells customer privacy as a feature on its products for years now, but I’d like to argue that for the
fruit tech giant, privacy isn’t just a feature, it’s actually a stand-alone product too - and that Apple devices are themselves actually just features of a lifestyle that Apple offers its customers. That lifestyle has a few characteristics that are easy to identify, but I’m sure someone could come up with a list that doesn’t look exactly like mine.
The Apple lifestyle, as I see it, is identifiable by its industry-leading levels of capability, fun, and safety. Internally, Apple uses the phrase “surprise and delight” to describe how they want customers to respond to their products, services, and retail experiences. Apple also talks about “enriching lives” as a driving focus - and taken together, it’s clear that the company is motivated to empower users in ways that feel more exciting than mere productivity. There is some sauce, some special spice that Apple believes should make its devices fun to use, as well as capable. To look back on Jobs’ metaphor of the computer as a bicycle for the mind - it’s apt that he didn’t say a hammer or fulcrum for the mind. A bicycle is useful, yes, but also fun to ride.
Most, though by no means all, software developers that I know use Macs. Most graphic designers I know use a Mac. Most writers I know use a Mac. Most people I know who use Windows are gamers, work in 3D, or are issued a Lenovo by their employer (bizfolx). Among music producers I know, the split seems closer to 50/50, but I notice that over time, musicians generally switch to a Mac when they can afford to.
As a programmer myself, I find the command line setup of the Mac to be much easier to deal with than anything I’ve used on Windows and iOS is generally a much more reliable platform than Android - from everything I’ve seen. However, it’s worth noting that what Apple offers is limited capability, within guardrails. Personal customization is much more flexible on Android and Windows - but most people don’t care. Apple products get the job done for them.
Physical and digital products are, at their best, aesthetically enjoyable to use. Apple deeply understands this and designs fun and play into so many surfaces. You know the iconic designs as well as I do, and there’s just no other electronics maker out there that comes close to the fun of Apple.
Apple is often caught in tension as it seeks to balance citizen rights, customer demands, corporate liability, and the law. Due to its scale and the kinds of devices and services it produces, Apple is forced into a complicated relationship with privacy issues. When Apple announced that they were working on new encryptions systems for their cloud storage, the news drew the irritated attention of law enforcement agencies (WSJ), but they are now starting to roll those policies out (Apple), and as they say - code is law.
Apple won’t be pursuing it’s plans to monitor on-device photo libraries for CSAM (Wired), but what I found interesting to observe about their initial attempts here is the way that they attempted, even in their intial press releases to show a balance between consumer privacy and “catching the bad guys”.
In the coming years, expect Apple to ramp up its marketing around privacy and security questions — and see how competitors react.
Most websites still run deep analytics on their users, but a growing minority in the indie/maker community is beginning to shift from total surveillance, through the space of anonymous analytics, all the way to no tracking whatsoever. This short set of slides gives some insight on this shift (PC Maffey).
FCC slaps $300M fine on “largest illegal robocall operation” it’s ever seen (Ars Technica)
This story has been known for a while, but a new image shows the actual facility where the NSA intercepted networking gear mid-shipment and installed their own tracking implants (Ars Technica)
The NYPD is leaning further into drone surveillance of ordinary citizens (AP)
Nazis stole and released 23AndMe data on one million people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent (Bleeping Computer)