Apple has touted its dedication to safeguarding consumer data for years, making its privacy message a key component of its brand proposition. The tech giant's CEO, Tim Cook made a point of admonishing Apple's Silicon Valley brethren for their data-gluttony at the Electronic Privacy Information Center's Champions event earlier this week in Washington, D.C.
A Tech Crunch story quotes Mr. Cook, who spoke from a remote location and appeared on a screen viewed by attendees:
"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," said Cook. "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 just grab everything, so we're not the richest target for those who want access to that kind of data. And for encryption -- well we're continuing to do the right thing, and we are moving forward. In an era where our information is digital, portable and sought-after more than ever, we want to build products that keep people's information safe."
Apple has been among the more conscientious tech companies when it comes to preventing personal data from being gathered or disseminated. For instance, last year the firm started rejecting mobile apps that grab Apple IDFAs -- Identifiers for Advertisers -- but don't run ads in the apps.
But that still leaves lots of sophisticated tracking via Apple devices in place. Think of firms such as Mobiquity Technologies, one of a slew of companies that gather Apple IDFAs and Android Ad Identifier codes from devices. The company has mobile beacons placed throughout common areas in malls and shopping centers, and is able to track the location of devices as people roam. Through a variety of partnerships, that data can then be connected to other information showing what people do in retail stores.
When Ad Age last month asked what Mobiquity wants to do with all that data, co-CEO Dean Julia said, "We hope to monetize it."
The exploding location tracking trend gained serious momentum when Apple introduced its iBeacon technology to developers. The irony here is that Apple led the mobile revolution, facilitating the massive data grab that Mr. Cook laments.
Don't call it hypocrisy, though. Apple has been a leader in embedding privacy protections into its technologies. However, by developing mobile technologies that so many people love and can't live without, Apple helped create the monster Mr. Cook aims to fight.