Apple internally condemned Google’s “right up to the creepy line” privacy practices back in 2013, even calling Android a “massive tracking device.”
Apple’s slides from 2013, pushing for privacy-based competition, were made public by the Department of Justice as part of the US vs. Google antitrust trial.
While a big part of the presentation is redacted, the slides contain comparisons of how privacy was handled by Apple’s competitors such as Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, and Google.
One entire slide reads with an Eric Schmidt quote from Washington Ideas Forum in 2010: “Google’s policy is to get right up to the creepy line but not cross it. I would argue that implanting things in your brain is beyond the creepy line. At least for the moment, until the technology gets better.”
In the presentation, Apple distinguished itself from Google’s practices. It highlighted features such as combining data across services, having no separate account support, tying services and searches to the Google Account, serving ads in Maps, mixing ad-related data with other services, and ad-targeting users with information from all the services.
The peaks with a conclusion that “Android is a massive tracking device.”
Meanwhile, the slides describe Apple’s approach to privacy with words from Steve Jobs:
“We take privacy extremely seriously... A lot of people in the Valley think we're really old-fashioned about this...”
In the Footer, the author of the slides pointed out “that it's in our DNA.”
Also, the presentation contains a privacy timeline with various old privacy-related events from other competitors. Those include Microsoft, launching a browser with privacy settings off by default, Facebook, introducing user tracking even if they opt out, Amazon, launching Kindle Fire, which routes all browser traffic through Amazon, and others.
“Automatic privacy to consumers would make it tougher for Microsoft to profit from selling online ads. Microsoft built its browser so that users must deliberately turn on privacy settings every time they start up the software,” the Footnote adds.
Despite knowing Google’s practices, Apple collects billions of dollars yearly from Google for setting its search engine to default on its devices. The ongoing trial revealed that the sum reached about $18 billion in 2021 alone, according to the New York Times.
However, Apple’s iOS has also introduced the system permission, which limits app-makers and advertisers from tracking user behavior.
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