Unidentifiable differences: Apple and Google’s stances on privacy

When you don’t look into it, aren’t all companies really the same?


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If a company steals your privacy right in front of your face and everyone else’s faces and it gets caught on camera and then they also get recorded selling the information to third parties, isn’t Apple just as bad for not doing that?

Writing for The Guardian, Jack Schofield tries to answer an admittedly difficult question.

“Can I buy a phone that doesn’t use anything from Google or Apple?” (Tip o’ the antlers to Justin.)

A reader writes in to The Guardian:

I have concerns about the likes of Google and Apple slurping up as much info as they can about me from my phone.

Are we just assuming those two things are the same? Seems like here the thing to do would be to educate the reader on the differences between Apple and Google, noting that one doesn’t really care about “slurping up” your information while that’s the other one’s business model.

You’d think.

That is, uh, not what happens.

Frankly, when you get down to it, both platforms are equally bad for one simple reason: Google.

The problem is that most people – including me – want to use Googly things on their phones.

Really, iOS is just as bad as Android, if we assume you want to use all-Google services on your iOS device. So, a pox on both their houses.

For shame, Apple. For shame. For creating a platform on which we can use Google’s privacy-slurping services.

Schofield’s assumption of preference for Google services completely ignores part of the reader’s question.

So, are there any phones that are 100% free from Google and Apple software and hardware?

“Can I get away from Google and Apple?”

“It’s difficult. And, anyway, I’m assuming you weren’t serious about wanting to get away from Google because who’d want to do that?!”

Gmail is the dominant email service, YouTube is the dominant short video provider, Google Search and Google Maps are very useful and Google Chrome is the most widely used web browser. There may be viable and sometimes preferable alternatives but you have to make an effort to use them. Most people don’t want to make the effort.

Uh, well, the only one you have to “make an effort” not to use on iOS is Google search. It was, however, a real effort for The Macalope to switch his default search engine to DuckDuckGo. “Ugh, why is this tapping so hurty?!” he cried to the Gods as he opened Preferences, scrolled to Safari and changed the option under “Search Engine.” But the Gods looked down without pity. Because he was being ridiculous. Was he actually complaining about finger friction? How much of a big deal is that?

We should see if there are any other planets that need Gods to worship, the Gods thought.

Presumably Schofield is saying that it’s hard to switch because Google’s services are better, but when they come at such a cost to your personal privacy, how are they actually better?

“Goodbye, Chrome: Google’s web browser has become spy software.”

There is a chronic case of tunnel vision among certain members of the tech press when it comes to privacy. They seem congenitally unwilling to recognize it as a feature that should be considered when evaluating competing products.

Schofield spends most of his piece lamenting the fact that there are no real alternatives to iOS and Android and noting that apps are often the worst offenders in trying to scrape your information. These are both great points and while Apple is making real strides in protecting customers from nefarious app makers, it could always do more.

But check out Ina Fried’s analyses on What Apple Knows About You

…Apple uses a number of techniques to either minimize how much data it has or encrypt it so that Apple doesn't have access to iMessages and similar personal communications.

…and What Google knows about you.

Google is the undisputed leader in the tech giants' race to accumulate user data… It likely knows everything you've ever typed into your browser’s search bar and every YouTube video you’ve ever watched. … It may also know where you've been, what you've bought and who you communicate with.

These companies operate in very different manners when it comes to the privacy of the users of their products. It is still possible to think that Apple has too much information about you even if you recognize that Google has tons more and is actively trying to collect it. What is sad, however, is that we are stuck with a tech press that is largely uninterested in explaining the difference between the two companies and assumes no one cares about giving up privacy in order to get further customized services.

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