Speaking remotely to an Electronic Privacy Information Center crowd honoring him last night, Apple CEO Tim Cook had some choice words about how other tech companies do business.
I’m speaking to you from Silicon Valley, where some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information. They’re gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be.
We don’t think you should ever have to trade it for a service you think is free but actually comes at a very high cost. This is especially true now that we’re storing data about our health, our finances and our homes on our devices.
We believe the customer should be in control of their own information. You might like these so-called free services, but we don’t think they’re worth having your email, your search history and now even your family photos data mined and sold off for god knows what advertising purpose. And we think some day, customers will see this for what it is.
Cook went on to talk about encryption, saying “we’ve been offering encryption tools in our products for years, and we’re going to stay on that path. We think it’s a critical feature for our customers who want to keep their data secure. For years we’ve offered encryption services like iMessage and FaceTime because we believe the contents of your text messages and your video chats is none of our business.”
It’s an argument about whether or not free services are actually worth the price you don’t pay. Cook makes solid points, all of which seem squarely pointed at Google.
You can always follow the breadcrumbs, and the clues always lead back to monetization. Google does many things because they rake in money via their ad network for those efforts. Facebook is similarly positioned as a free service — so is Twitter.
Apple is vertically integrated, making money from hardware while also taking a cut of app or music sales. It also pinches a very slight amount from Apple Pay. Its iAd program doesn’t cull personal data.
Cook is right that giving up personal info to places we’re not totally cognizant of is a slippery slope.. And we should all be aware that any free service or app typically has some sort of monetization angle, and if it doesn’t — it likely will at some point.