Apple slices up data brokers as privacy war escalates

apple 1Apple is ramping up its attack on the data broker industry in a global ad campaign designed to show how features it has developed can help consumers protect their privacy by taking back control over their personal data.

The new 90-second ad spot will run across 24 countries this summer on TV, social and outdoor media, highlighting how the data broker industry trades in mobile users’ personal data — from selling browsing history and shopping habits, to location data and contacts.

The campaign also highlights a number of features Apple has developed to hand iOS users the tools to counter tracking, including Mail Privacy Protection, which helps users combat email trackers, and App Tracking Transparency (ATT), which lets them request that third party apps do not track their mobile activity.

The ad opens with the main character “Ellie” browsing in a record shop. She then looks up and sees pair of doors with the sign “Ellie’s Data Auction” and, entering the room, she discovers a group of brokers in the “Dubious Auction” as the auctioneer says: “The next sale is a digital treasure trove. Charming Ellie’s private data.”

The smirking audience can then be seen making bids for Ellie’s “digital items”, including her drug store purchases, emails she has opened, location data, browsing history, details of her late night messaging habits and all of her contact data, including that of her grandmother.

With mounting horror at the sale of her private information, Ellie is shown activating features on her iPhone, including the Mail Privacy Protection, which result in the data brokers vanishing one by one in a puff of smoke – Wizard of Oz Wicked Witch-style, until the room is completely empty.

The endline states: “It’s your data. iPhone helps keep it that way. Privacy. That’s iPhone.”

The move comes despite widespread concerns over Apple’s own data protection record; last month former senior Apple engineer Ashley Gjøvik lodged official complaints with a raft of data protection authorities over alleged breaches of data laws, claiming the company has been using unlawful data collection and invasive privacy practices across “multiple countries” for years.

Meanwhile, NOYB, the privacy organisation headed by Austrian lawyer and Facebook nemesis Max Schrems, has filed two complaints against Apple, in Germany and Spain, under the ePrivacy Directive in 2020.

It claims the company’s so-called “Identifier for Advertisers” – a cookie installed on every iPhone – allows the company and all apps on the phone to track a user and combine information about online and mobile behaviour. Apple places these tracking codes without the knowledge or agreement of users, the group maintains.

At the time NOYB privacy lawyer Stefano Rossetti said: “We believe Apple violates the law. EU law protects our devices from external tracking. Tracking is only allowed if users explicitly consent to it. This very simple rule applies regardless of the tracking technology used. While Apple introduced functions in their browser to block cookies, it places similar codes in its phones, without any consent by the user. This is a clear breach of EU privacy laws.”

NOYB also has a second GDPR complaint against Apple over data access which has yet to be concluded.

Related stories
App-ocalypse Now: Marketers losing sleep and money
Whistleblower claims trigger GDPR probes into Apple
Apple cut to the core by new unlawful tracking claims
Decision Marketing at 10: How GDPR changed the world
Apple accused of illegally sharing iTunes customer data
Apple, Spotify, Google and Netflix face GDPR data probe

Print Friendly