Apple’s Tim Cook warns that ad tech will ruin society, defending the opt-in feature of its app tracker | GLM

Apple’s Tim Cook warns that ad tech will ruin society, defending the opt-in feature of its app tracker

Apple CEO Tim Cook gave a keynote speech at the Computers, Privacy and Data Protection (CPDP) conference in January 2021 revealing the idea that Europe should strengthen privacy protection.

He gave a live lecture in Brussels two years ago and blamed the “data-industrial complex” that supports the mass monitoring of Internet users by the ad tech industry, but this lecture is almost the same. I repeated the claim.

In this talk, Cook said that the reform of the current generation of ad tech is now humanely essential, and has repeatedly criticized Facebook in a roundabout way.

“As I said in Brussels two years ago, not only did we enact comprehensive privacy laws in the United States, but we also minimized data, user knowledge (for our use of information), user access to data, It’s time to develop global laws and new international agreements to put the principle of data security globally into practice. “

“We must respond universally and humanely to those who claim their rights to personal information about what they shouldn’t and what they don’t,” Cook added.

Apple is currently preparing to move on to the world’s first attempt to require developers to ask for user permission in advance for tracking. Cook’s message, mentioned above, was announced at a crucial time for the company.

In late January 2021, Apple reiterated that it will enable the App Tracking Transparency feature in the next beta release of iOS 14. The official introduction is expected in early spring 2021.

Apple was planning to launch the feature in 2020, but has postponed it to give developers more time to prepare.

Facebook, the ad tech giant, has long argued against the move, and Apple’s empowerment to refuse third-party tracking could have a significant impact on publishers using ad networks. It warns that it will be.

Earlier, Facebook announced its fourth-quarter earnings, warning that “advertising headwinds are intensifying” and that 2021 revenues will decline, and Apple’s ATT (and “changing regulator attitude”). Was listed as a risk.

Cook also spoke at another conference on data protection and privacy (usually in Brussels but online in 2021 due to a pandemic), showing Apple’s attitude towards ATT and privacy. The opt-in feature of tracking, which is strongly defended and is about to be introduced, is to “return control to the user”, conspiracy theory, extremism, by monitoring Internet users by Adtech. He pointed out that various adverse effects such as the spread of physical violence are occurring.

“Users have been waiting for this feature for a long time,” he said of ATT. “We have worked closely with developers to give them the time and resources to implement this feature, and for ourselves, this feature will change things for everyone. We believe it is likely and we are working with enthusiasm. ”

In France, Apple’s move has been suspected of being unfairly competitive, and in October 2020, four online advertising lobby groups said, “Apple asks app users for tracking permission. It’s the company’s abuse of market power to force it, “said Apple for antitrust violations (in the UK, there is a similar complaint about Google’s discontinuation of third-party tracking cookie support in Chrome browsers.” , Regulatory investigations have begun).

Facebook is also preparing to sue Apple for antitrust violations, according to The Information, and the judicial dispute is heating up (in fact, Facebook itself has been a long-standing anti-competitive act. FTC has been sued for monopolizing the social network market).

In the same lecture, Cook said that as another new initiative on privacy protection, “privacy nutrition” that shows information on data collection in an easy-to-understand manner like a food ingredient table for apps listed on the App Store is displayed. Said that it will be mandatory for iOS app developers. As I mentioned in another article, this label and the upcoming ATT will apply to Apple apps as well as third parties.

According to Cook, the two moves are in line with Apple’s core product philosophy of creating technology that “helps users and aims for their well-being,” and informs about everything people do online. He said it was in contrast to the greedy “data industry complex” approach of collecting and using them as mass manipulation tools to the detriment of users.

“In the first place, all private and personal information seems to lead to monitoring, monetization, or aggregating to expose users’ lives,” Cook warns. “The destination of this approach is the commercialization of our customers.”

“With the full-scale introduction of ATT, users will be able to say no to such tracking. If the information is necessary for tracking, it may be provided to improve the accuracy of targeted advertisements. Some might think, but many don’t seem to think so, because incorporating a similar feature into Safari’s web tracker limits has been well received by most users. “These privacy-centric features and innovations are at the core of Apple’s responsibilities, which have been and will continue to be,” he added.

In the past, Cook pointed out that there was a time when the advertising industry was thriving without the need for mass surveillance against privacy. “Technology can succeed without the vast amount of personal data gathered from numerous websites and apps. Without it, advertising has survived and prospered for decades. The least resistant path. It’s rarely a wise choice to go, and that’s why we’re in the position we are today. ”

Cook also harshly criticized Facebook in some respects. He didn’t name Facebook, but criticized its business method, which is based on “user monitoring,” “data exploitation,” and “choice of choice.”

“Such an organization deserves our praise. It deserves reform,” he continued. Also, earlier in the same talk, he praised the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for its role in strengthening privacy protection and appealed to conference attendees that such law enforcement “needs to continue”. (Exactly this continuity has become a weakness of the GDPR, but now two and a half years have passed and it seems that the enforcement system is finally on track).

Cook continues to criticize Facebook, sucking up huge amounts of data, and disseminating hoaxes and conspiracy theories due to engagement-heavy ad tech, and the impact of these approaches is too serious for democrats. He claimed it was unacceptable.

“Don’t lose sight of the big picture. Now that algorithms are rampant in hoaxes and conspiracy theories, all you have to do is increase your engagement rate to collect as much data as possible. It’s no longer possible to overlook the idea of ​​technology that the longer it is, the better. ”

“Many people are still talking about’how much fine will it be?’The question is what impact it will have. Conspiracy simply because of high engagement rates. What would happen if the instigation of theory and violence were prioritized? What if we not only allow content that undermines public confidence in life-saving vaccines, but also reward such content? What if thousands of users were in a radical group and the algorithm that encouraged them to join the group survived, “he continued, with Facebook’s business as the direct cause. He explained various scenarios that have been criticized.

“Pretending to be unsacrificed in these approaches should be stopped immediately. Sacrifice is inequality, loss of trust, and of course violence. Social dilemmas lead to social catastrophe. Don’t forgive me, “he added, transforming Facebook’s image of social networks with a single blow.

There’s a reason Apple is working with European data protection experts to push the fight against ad tech giants against ATT. EU regulators have the power to enforce laws that support the ATT approach. However, at this point, regulators haven’t gotten that far.

The Irish Data Protection Commission (DPC), which leads data protection monitoring for Facebook, includes so-called “enforcement of consent” (if you want to use the service, you have no choice but to consent to be tracked by ad targeting). , Has not yet conducted a survey on Facebook’s various business practices.

This approach, which gives users no choice, is in contrast to Apple’s transformation in the App Store. The App Store will now require all companies to obtain user consent for tracking. This move by Apple is in line with the principles of European data protection law (for example, the law consents to the processing of people’s data without presenting any conditions to be legally valid. There is a principle that you need to get).

Similarly, Facebook’s stance of continuing to refuse to give users choices is in direct conflict with EU law and could be subject to the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) regulation (Cook speaks). This is what I was complaining about).

2021 is likely to be an important year for this controversy to settle. At the end of 2020, Ireland sent a draft decision to data protection authorities in other EU member states, and DPC’s long-term investigation into the transparency of data sharing between WhatsApp and Facebook began moving towards law enforcement in 2021. There is.

Politico reports that WhatsApp could be fined between € 30 and € 50 million on its own. That is not all. WhatsApp fined FTC $ 5 billion in 2019 for a privacy breach, but it didn’t have to make any specific changes to how it operates its advertising business. This time, you may be instructed to change the way you handle user data.

If the authorities issue an order to stop processing certain types of user data (or force the user’s consent before using the data), Facebook’s business empire will have a far greater impact than ever before. There is no doubt that it will reach.

Facebook will also be sentenced to a final ruling in 2021 as to whether it can legally continue to transfer European user data outside the EU.

If Facebook were ordered to stop such data flow, it would disrupt a significant portion of its business. As of the first quarter of 2019, Europe’s DAU (number of users per day) was 286 million.

The bottom line is that regulators’ attitudes towards Facebook’s business operations are clearly “changing.”

Facebook is also poised to argue that Apple’s move is anti-competitive by putting in legal experts in response to Apple’s impending platform-level privacy enforcement. But EU legislators also seem to be on the lookout for selfish moves to bring antitrust as a tool to counter privacy enforcement.

(It’s worth noting that Cook touched on the “innovation” of privacy in the talk. “The future lies beyond innovation that makes our lives better, more fulfilled and more human.” “Isn’t it?” I asked the audience. This is a very key question in the privacy-antitrust debate.)

In December 2020, Commission EVP competition director Margrethe Vestager said at the OECD Global Competition Forum that antitrust enforcement officials are wary of privacy not being used as a competitive shield He pointed out that it was necessary. That said, he has expressed support for Facebook’s conviction in a superprofiling proceeding in Germany, and his words were ironic about the data industry complex.

The proceeding, which is still pending by the German FCO, combines privacy and competition in a new and interesting way. Winning regulators could result in structural separation of Facebook’s social sector at the data level. So to speak, it’s a regulatory version of “act quickly and break the rut” (Facebook’s famous motto).

It is worth noting that Mr. Vestair described regulatory innovation as “exciting and interesting.” Those who oversee European digital policy and competition also seem to vote for confidence rather than blame for regulatory innovation.

Rachel Maga
Rachel Maga is a technology journalist currently working at Globe Live Media agency. She has been in the Technology Journalism field for over 5 years now. Her life's biggest milestone is the inside tour of Tesla Industries, which was gifted to her by the legend Elon Musk himself.