Apple uses “privacy as cover” for advertising, analyst says

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In recent years, Apple has made its commitment to privacy a unique selling point, doing everything possible to reassure iPhone customers that its data is safe from prying eyes.

While that position has been somewhat undermined by the recent controversy over scanning photos for child abuse images (which has been delayed), an analyst believes the company’s apparent commitment to privacy may mask another long-term goal: to get into the Internet advertising game. which brings in the lion’s share of their respective revenues to Facebook and Google.

“We see (the privacy changes) as a sign that Apple might want to compete in global advertising,” RBC analyst Bran Erickson said in a customer note seen by Reuters. The “privacy changes” refer to the Transparency of Application Tracking (ATT), an update to iOS 14.5 that allows iPhone owners to block user tracking.

The company “can use data privacy as a cover while investing in a behind-the-scenes search algorithm,” Erickson continued, apparently alluding to an Apple-branded alternative to Google and Bing.

Apple Search – Really?

The idea that Apple might consider challenging Google may seem a bit far-fetched, and it’s not the only interpretation of the company’s privacy measures. Indeed, Reuters notes that while another company, analysts at Evercore ISI, agreed that “hindering third-party advertising” would give Apple a head start in the advertising world, ATT was intended to user privacy and not monetization.

Building a search engine that works as well as Google’s algorithms is a lot of work, and even well-funded competitors struggle to make significant inroads. This week alone, it was reported that Microsoft’s most searched term on Bing was “Google.”

And Apple’s past attempts to encroach on Google territory haven’t always gone smoothly, as anyone who remembers the early days of Apple Maps will attest.

Then there’s the fact that Google pays Apple around $ 15 billion a year to be the default search engine on the company’s iPhones. Making your own search engine would put an end to the easy money Apple takes each year just by maintaining the status quo.

The flip side, of course, is that if Google can afford to pay $ 15 billion a year for this privilege, then being the default search engine on iPhone must mean a lot to the company. Apple could decide it wants to know how much it could make by removing the man in the middle. Whether privacy-conscious iPhone users stand up for it is another question, however.

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