Technology makes for strange bedfellows. Apple designs the CPUs that run in iPhone and iPad but someone else actually makes the chips. Apple designed the new OLED display in iPhone X but Samsung manufactures the display. In fact, Apple contracts with other manufacturers to make almost everything the company sells that isn’t software, music, TV shows, or movies. Apple is in bed with device and component manufacturers to a degree most of us would never know.
Likewise, Apple is engaged in a covert collusion with Google. Yes. That Google.
The Google that allows the majority of apps on the Google Play Store to covertly track their users. People may know their Android devices or Google apps are tracking them, but they do not know to what extent and who else is involved.
Apple helps Google track its customers and gets paid for the effort. Here’s how.
Safari on Mac, iPhone, and iPad is the default browser. Yes, other browsers are available, but about 75-percent us Apple’s built-in browser, and on iOS it’s Apple’s own browser engine which powers anything that, well, browses to websites. Safari’s default search engine is… insert my famous digital drum roll here… Google. Not Bing. Not Yahoo! Not DuckDuckGo. Google. And Google pays Apple a few billion dollars for the privilege of being the default browser, and that should tell you how much iOS is worth to Google’s advertising and tracking revenue.
Over in the United Kingdom Google was caught selling personal information culled from iPhone users without their specific permission. Katie Morley:
Google unlawfully harvested the personal information of millions of people in the UK by bypassing the default privacy settings on the Apple iPhone. Google’s algorithms allowed them to trick people’s iPhones into releasing personal data from the phone’s default browser, Safari. This has become known as the ‘Safari Workaround’.
The only thing new in this cat and mouse game is that Google got caught.
There are two issues here that bother me. The first is the most obvious.
Google culls data from users without their knowledge. Yes, I know about the license terms pages we all click on when first using an application– which gives Google and others the rights to take such information and do with it as they please– but most people never read the details, wouldn’t know what to do if they did and objected to some of the rights they sign over, and are blindly putting their trust in a sinister company with a pretty, colorful, playful logo that makes massive profits at the expense of our personal information– which, as the lawsuit points out, Google sells.
The second issue should be obvious but is not. Apple prides itself on privacy and security but the competition makes Apple look good even when Apple behaves badly. Apple gets paid to put Google as the default search engine on Safari.
How is that not quid pro quo and collusion? Since most people don’t know about the rights they sign away to use Google, how is that not covert? If Apple wants to be the purveyor of privacy and security then it needs to act like a company that cares about customer and user rights.