Not a week goes by without news of another government or corporate data breach. Most Google and Facebook users just don’t know how much tracking goes on. This week I read about the Android knockoff OxygenOS which runs on the popular Chinese OnePlus smartphone line. Yep. You guessed it. They were stealing customer data in a big way. Surprised?
Here’s the raw deal. Google and Facebook make their money by tracking users and culling as much personal information as possible for advertisers. An Android smartphone maker with a few hundred million customers has a goldmine of personal information to extract, but most customers and users just don’t know or just don’t care or both.
Who do you trust? Who can you trust?
It’s not Google or Samsung and probably not the Chinese smartphone makers. What about Apple?
On the surface, Apple seems like a good choice for trust but the company can do more to ensure customer privacy. How much more? Apple basks in the glory of being the most customer friendly and points out the money trails of Google and Apple are much different.
Google makes money by advertising, so extracting personal information from you is a cash cow. Apple makes most of its money the old fashioned way by selling hardware.
What else can Apple do?
First, dump Google. For now, Apple gets a few billion in cash from Google to make the search engine the default in Safari on iPhone and iPad. That’s a billion users and it’s valuable to Google. Apple could easily display user selectable options the first time Safari is run. Search engine choice should be an opt-in proposition. Yes, Apple might leave billions on the table, but the company can afford it and still build in more ad and tracker blocking within Safari that does not exist as default now.
Second, create an Apple VPN. Only for Apple customers, only for Apple hardware. A VPN with a sufficient supply of IP addresses would help to hide the company’s customers from the likes of Google, Bing, and the tens of thousands of advertiser trackers which bloat website downloads, and make web browsing a miserable and dangerous experience at times.
Is that enough? No.
Third, Apple should form a union with Microsoft for secure email between users. Private, secure, and encrypted email only works if both ends are connected and part of the process. Start with Apple Mail on Mac, iPhone, and iPad, perhaps with a standard encryption that could be used by third party email apps and services, but make it work end-to-end between Apple’s customers and Windows customers.
Finally, encryption everywhere. Yes, government agencies will not like. Too bad. Encryption is here to stay unless the world becomes a totalitarian state which removes the few freedoms we have today. With encryption options available for those in countries where it may be banned, restricted, or tracked, Apple will rise to the top as the brand that courts personal privacy everywhere.
Apple can be trusted more than competitors, but, for now, if you can’t trust Apple you can’t trust anyone.