Apple (AAPL) is once again promoting its privacy features in a new ad campaign that takes shots at everything from competing email services to, well, virtually the entire internet.
In a new ad, which launches Wednesday, the iPhone maker highlights the litany of ways that online data brokers collect your information to target you with ads. That isn’t exactly a stunning revelation. Consumers have been told for years that web browsers, social networks, and even their navigation apps collect data on them to sell ads.
But Apple’s goal isn’t to inform the public. Instead, it’s to juxtapose itself against the broader tech industry as the kind of company that will defend its users’ privacy. Of course, that’s also drawn the ire of companies like Facebook parent Meta (FB), which has said that Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) technology is slamming the social media company’s bottom line to the tune of $10 billion in 2022.
ATT allows users to choose whether their apps collect data about their usage. If you turn data collection off, your apps will only use the bare minimum of data to function.
In Apple’s commercial, a woman named Ellie peruses a record store when she comes across a secret data auction. Ad auctions in the real world are systems companies use to place their ads on various websites for a certain cost.
During her stay in the data auction, Ellie’s drug store purchases, location data, emails, late night texting habits, and recent transactions are all being bought up by data brokers.
To take back her privacy and keep her information from the data brokers, Ellie turns on Apple’s ATT and Mail Privacy Protection, which prevents marketing emails from seeing if you’ve opened them.
She also uses Apple’s App Privacy Report, which tells Ellie which apps are sending her data to third-party sites, and Safari Privacy Report to see which web pages are sending out her data.
Apple’s privacy chops are genuine. The company does keep data from going to third parties. But that doesn’t mean apps can’t still collect your data. As long as they’re not vacuuming up your info and firing it off to third parties, developers can use your information to sell ads all they want. In other words, Facebook can’t track what you do across other apps and websites, but it can track what you do in the primary Facebook app.
Apple’s stance on privacy has irked companies like Meta and Google’s (GOOG, GOOGL) YouTube. Both firms have seen their ad revenue take a hit, as Apple’s ATT makes it more difficult for advertisers to determine how well their campaigns perform among potential consumers.
Google’s Android has also jumped on the privacy bandwagon, announcing new features for its upcoming Android 13 that allow users to limit the kind of content apps can access from a users’ device. But Apple’s ATT still goes further by making it hard for third parties to access user data at all.
Apple isn’t without its own larger controversies, however. The tech giant is in the midst of a global fight over potential regulations that could force it to change its App Store policies around the world, opening up the platform to allow developers to accept consumers’ payments, which could eat into Apple’s robust App Store business.
And Politico reported late last year that the Department of Justice is also moving forward with an antitrust investigation into the company’s App Store practices.
Despite its current and potential future legal troubles, Apple has clearly differentiated itself from the rest of the tech industry — at least as far as data collection goes. And for a number of consumers, that’s all it takes to become an Apple user for life.
More from Dan
Got a tip? Email Daniel Howley at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.