In his continuing series on Big Tech Trust US correspondent Sam Bocetta poses the question, ‘Can you trust Apple?’

Apple is part of the FAANG acronym along with Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google.

Can you trust Apple

Can you trust Apple? It comes down to how you define trust in a digital world as it is a belief system – more guidelines really.

Can you trust Apple to…

  • Make eye-wateringly expensive gear? Yes
  • Extract maximum money from hardware, software, services to fleece its sheep? Yes
  • Say it is a feature – not a bug and ignore the problem until a class action? Yes
  • Have a monopoly in the App Store? Yes
  • Never comment on rumour, even if it is a fact? Yes
Can you trust Apple

On the other hand, do you trust Apple with your privacy, not to use your data against you or to sell it to the highest bidder? We hope to answer that.

Apple wants you to trust it

Apple launched its typical polished ‘Privacy. That’s iPhone’ campaign at the same time as the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

It aims to be the only tech company you can trust. Sceptics say that the ‘holier than thou’ stance makes Apple a colossal target as evidenced by more than 703 million websites in a “Can you trust Apple” search.

Privacy, more than any other major global issue (climate change included), is this decades most important.

Apple certainly makes the right noises

CEO Tim Cook has repeatedly stated that privacy is a “fundamental human right.” It is undoubtedly an impressive statement if not a long read. Its privacy policy was updated on 31 December 2019.

Apple states it does not sell personal information, and [its] personal information will never be shared with third parties for their marketing purposes. But as you will read later, there are a few truck-sized holes in that statement.

Vice president of software technology Guy ‘Bud’ Tribble said to a US Congress hearing, “Ultimately, privacy is about living in a world where you can trust that your decisions about how your personal information is shared and used are being respected’ – while also advising any new legislation should not place undue burdens on app developers. Ditto – the truck-sized hole applies to third-party apps and how they need to exfiltrate data to make money!

Apple also submitted a formal response (it is a PDF so check Downloads) to the Australian draft privacy bill eschewing the possibility of including a law-enforcement back door in its products. But as the Government stated its response is based more on looking safer to consumers than the practicality of responding to a legitimate government subpoena for access.

The US Senate is equally annoyed.

Lindsey Graham, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, stated, “No American should want a device that is a safe haven for criminality,” citing “encrypted apps that child molesters use” as an example. He added “My recommendation to you is that you all get on with it… By this time next year, if you haven’t come up with a solution that we can all live with, we will impose our will on you.”

To be fair to Apple, its position is that, as CEO Tim Cook said, the company was incapable of running into the same privacy issues as Facebook, saying, “The truth is, we could make a ton of money if we monetised our customer — if our customer was our product. We’ve elected not to do that.”

Apple Litigation – and there has been a lot, but it is mostly to protect the walled garden.

Wikipedia documents Apple’s litigation (to end 2017) based on

  • Antitrust
  • Consumer Class actions (#KeyboardGate, #BatteryGate, #AntennaGate…)
  • Trade Practice
  • Defamation
  • Trademarks, copyright and patents
  • Corporate espionage and data theft

But overall, few challenge Apple’s privacy, and most are symptomatic of running a trillion-dollar (by market cap) company. By far the largest slice is for Anti-trust – alleged monopolistic practices of its walled garden.