Apple’s approach to user privacy: Agreeing with Gruber (and Jobs)

Regarding Facebook’s complaints about Apple’s requirement that app makers get users’ consent to tracking, I think John Gruber has it just right:

Facebook: Free as in Bullshit

It’s an unfortunate quirk of the English language that free as freedom and free as in beer are very different meanings of free. But when you see an ad headlined “Apple vs. The Free Internet”, most people would assume they’re about to hear an argument about free as in freedom.

Not Facebook. They’re arguing about free as in beer.

This may well result in diminishing the effectiveness of personalized advertising. If so, so be it. Facebook’s argument is along the lines of arguing that the police shouldn’t crack down on burglaries because it might hurt pawn shops that have been thriving during a years-long crime spree. The information used for tracking belongs to the users whose behavior and interests is being tracked, not to Facebook and the companies, no matter how small and noble, who advertise with them.

Kara Swisher: ‘Facebook’s Tone-Deaf Attack on Apple’

It’s entirely possible, and I say it’s true, that Apple’s bottom line does not depend on privacy invasion not by happenstance but because the company well and truly believes in privacy as a human right to its core.

Steve Jobs on Privacy

Privacy means people know what they’re signing up for, in plain English, and repeatedly. That’s what it means. I’m an optimist, I believe people are smart. And some people want to share more data than other people do. Ask them. Ask them every time. Make them tell you to stop asking them if they get tired of your asking them. Let them know precisely what you’re going to do with their data.

That’s what we think.

I’m on board with that. I want my operating system to ask me before apps track what I do. Facebook’s concern is that it knows many of its users do not actually want it to track them in the ways that it has become accustomed to tracking them. I have no sympathy for that.

My devices are supposed to work for me, not for Facebook. If that means Facebook makes less money—if that even means Facebook fails—I do not care. I don’t think Facebook will fail because it has to ask users to track them. But if it does fail, I’m okay with that.

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