Google? That’s laughable. Google is the world’s worst online tracker, but merely one among many. Microsoft? Hello. Bing, the search engine. Samsung? The Korean maker uses Android as does hundreds of other smartphone and tablet makers, so tracking comes naturally. Amazon? Seriously. My side hurts from laughing.
That leaves Apple, the gadget maker with a seemingly halfway decent record on customer privacy, right? I mean, there’s Touch ID, the fingerprint sensor. There’s the option to browse mostly privately using Safari. Apple even allows for third party ad blockers on iOS. What’s not to like?
Here’s the deal. In public, Apple doesn’t care about your personal information and doesn’t go to great lengths to gather it and use it; certainly not the same way Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, and others do. Reports say that more than 10-percent of all internet users have some kind of ad and tracker blocking installed, and that number jumps to 40-percent among more educated and technology savvy users.
Apple’s upcoming version of Safari has a new feature for macOS– not yet iOS– called Intelligent Tracking Prevention, or, ITP. This is a watered down method of limiting all the tracking mechanisms employed by advertisers these days. ITP gathers tracker tokens– pieces of information stored on your Mac while browsing– and stops their use after 24 hours. Glenn Fleishman has some good by geeky detail on the so-called persistent tracker problem and Apple’s ITP solution.
What I see with this solution from Apple is lip service. While ITP might cut down on some tracking after 24 hours of visiting a specific site, such tracking is not prohibited in the way that Adblock Plus or Ghostery provide on the Mac, or other third party blockers provide on iPhone and iPad. You’re still being tracking, personal information is being culled from your device and where you visit online, and that gets added to the online profile being built by Google, Facebook, Amazon, and others.
Wait. It’s worse. The default search engine on Safari for Mac, iPhone, and iPad is… insert the drum roll here… Google. Apple gets paid by Google for search engine results which translate into revenue, so Apple has a monetary and vested interest in having Google as the default search engine. Sure, other options are available, but the vast majority of Apple’s customers stick with the default. That’s Google, and that means the worst offender for advertising trackers remains front and center– gathering and using your online history to create vast billions of dollars in profits.
Apple is complicity in this, so any notion that the company is helping your privacy with ITP or other efforts to limit ad trackers seems two-faced, part of a split personality where the company tells you it loves your privacy while selling your privacy to Google.
In this case, love equals money.
Please note that about 18 months ago Jesse and I decided to stop all tracking on BohemianBoomer. Why? It’s the right thing to do. We still have advertising but there are no ad trackers in use. There’s not even an analytics tracker or a cookie on Boomer. What that means is this. Your visit is about as clean and neat as it can get. The few ads we have are targeted only to Apple’s customers who read Boomer and you won’t find a tracker anywhere. Install Ghostery or AdBlock Plus or any other blocker and you’ll see. If privacy is important to us, and it is, then it should be important and available to our readers, too.