Software engineer Gaël Duval who is working to create an ‘ethical operating system’ called /e/ wrote an open letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook today in response to Cook’s talk about privacy at ICDPPC on Oct 24.
Duval argued that Cook’s pro-privacy comments and actions are brilliant PR moves that work in favor of Apple. His open letter to Tim Cook reads, “your strategists know that Google, that owns 80% of the smartphone market worldwide, is in a difficult position on this topic because their business model essentially relies on collecting personal data and profiting from it through advertizing. That’s a great opportunity for Apple to communicate, because Apple’s business model is selling devices, not advertising.”
Why Duval finds Apple’s privacy claims disingenuous
Duval further dived into why he is skeptical of Apple’s concern for user privacy on its products.
Apple’s privacy claims can’t be verified as it a closed ecosystem
iOS and macOS are mostly proprietary, closed operating systems. Users can only ‘trust Apple’s claims’ of the OS being secure. As there is no source code in the open, there is no guarantee that the security measurements put in place are enough to protect users against all privacy threats. He pointed out that if the source code was open source, the community and experts could verify the security and privacy measures themselves.
Personal information for profit
Duval says that Apple explicitly accepted using personal information for their own profit.
Apple allows Google to collect user data on iPhone for the right price
The price was $9B for this year! It was $1B in 2014, speculated to be $3B in 2017 and to be $13B in 2019! This hefty fee allows Google to collect a lot of data from iOS users.
Apple hasn’t been in the news for privacy issues mostly because they don’t collect that much personal data, or so Apple users should hope. Will Apple open-source their OSes? I don’t think so. Apple OSes are also less susceptible to less attacks because of it being a closed system.
Apple, /e/, and privacy
What about Apple user data collected by Google being the default search engine? Now you may argue that it is just the default engine and can be changed. Yes, but how many regular consumers do you picture doing that? Most people would just pull out their phone go to the browser and start typing on the search bar.
While all of the above points are valid and call out Apple on its practices, the open letter ends up doing what Duval accused Cook of doing in the first place – cease the opportunity to promote his product. This letter does serve as a promotional medium for Duval’s new mobile OS project /e/ that follows a privacy by design ethos.
We aren’t complaining though, more competition and diverse business models in the mobile OS space can only be a good thing in the age of data harvesting and security breaches .
To read the letter, visit Duval’s Medium post.