Apple swaying in data titans duel | John naughton

II just downloaded v14.5, the latest version of iOS, the operating system that runs my iPhone. Among the new features it has are: the ability to unlock the phone with an Apple Watch while wearing a mask; support for something called AirTag; distinct variations in skin tone for couples’ emojis; and more diverse voice options for Apple’s voice assistant, Siri. None of these “features” serve me much. But version 14.5 Is add something that interests me deeply – the ability to control which apps are allowed to track my activity on other companies’ apps and websites.

Apple calls this “Application Tracking Transparency” (ATT) and it’s a code called “Advertiser Identity” or IDFA. It turns out that every iPhone comes with one of these identifiers, the purpose of which is to provide the hucksters with aggregate data about the user’s interests. Think about that for a moment, then think about the irony of a company that since 2013 has been selling such tagged devices, while boasting about its commitment to user privacy. Apple’s defense, of course, is that savvy users could have turned off IDFA through the phone’s privacy settings and menus, a response that escape connoisseurs will recognize as the Jesuitical ploy used by companies to technology who know that most customers would rather eat raw seaweed rather than handle it. with factory default settings on their devices.

But iOS 14.5 apparently changes all of that; Now, iPhone users are encouraged to accept tracking. A pop-up dialog will appear saying: “Allow [app name] to track your activity on other companies’ apps and websites? And providing two options: “ask the application not to track” and “allow”. By the way, note that it says “ask” rather than “say,” another subtle indicator of how much tech companies actually care about their users’ agency.

When Apple announced months ago that it was planning to make the change, the big bangs in the data-tracking racket turned drama, rightly inferring that many iPhone users would refuse to be tracked. when they were offered such an obvious outcome. Suddenly, the lucrative $ 350 billion business of collecting user data to sell to data brokers, or linking a user’s app data to third-party data collected in order to target ads, was threatened. According to Apple, the new rules will affect other enforcement processes as well, including sharing location data with data brokers and implementing hidden trackers for the purpose of conducting ad analytics. Momentarily taken aback by the ferocity of the storm, Apple decided to postpone the introduction in order to give the industry “time to adapt” to the reality to come, thus breaking the golden rule according to which one should not. never give the gangsters an equal break.

In the run-up to last week, then, we were treated to a stimulating display of frenzied hyperbole from the watchful capitalist mob, led, as usual, by Facebook. Expensive full-page ads were taken in serious newspapers bleating that the cruel and arbitrary changes imposed by Apple would hurt small businesses, which would no longer be able to reach their customers as easily as before. Apple, Facebook claimed, was abusing its “dominant market position to prefer its own data collection while making it nearly impossible for its competitors to use the same data. They claim it’s about confidentiality, but it’s about profit. We are not fools. It’s all part of transforming Apple’s business from innovative hardware products to data-driven software and media. “

As an example of a heap of slag calling for a black kettle, it takes a few hits. The same goes for the spectacle of an $ 872 billion company crying crocodile tears over the plight of small businesses unable to reach their target audiences for cruelty-free embroidered handkerchiefs and rabbit traps. It’s hard, after all, to see how a rabbit trap supplier needs information about what someone is doing on a fitness app to effectively advertise to their customers.

But before citing the violins for a poor and misunderstood apple (currently worth $ 2.2 billion), it should be remembered that, as the New York Times pointed out, he strangely failed to mention that his newfound enthusiasm for transparency is good for his business as well as iPhone owners. This all boasts that iPhones are great for privacy and bleating that targeted digital advertising is dangerous, but it becomes a little less convincing when you remember that Apple takes billions of dollars every year from Google, the largest targeted advertising company on the planet, for having its default search engine on Apple devices.

The ironic puzzle behind this corporate maelstrom is that no one knows how important Apple’s new installation will be. Will iPhone users refuse tracking, en masse, as data-tracking racketeers fear? Or are people actually more relaxed about it than they tell pollsters? Only time will tell. For now, the only sure thing is that this columnist is withdrawing.

What i read

Numbers game
The woman who broke the myth of the free market is a beautiful New York Times Zachary Carter’s essay on Joan Robinson, the underrated heroine of Keynesian economics.

Peatland standards
In a mind-blowing Baffler essay, Sami Emory asks why bogs get such a bad press.

Crisps with everything
Someone has to run the chip factories. Noah Smith’s sub-stack on why we neglect Stem education at our peril.

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