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Google vs Apple: How Business Models Drive Disrespect vs Respect for Privacy

How business models are aligned or not with users' privacy interests, will be spotlighted at the Senate Judiciary hearing Tuesday on "Protecting Mobile Privacy" featuring Google and Apple officials as witnesses.

 

  • Expect the term "privacy conflict of interest" to become more common and important as companies who don't work for users, hurtle into the future increasingly tracking, analyzing and using users' private information and behavior without users' meaningful consent.

 

While the Senate Subcommittee on Privacy will hear from both Google and Apple witnesses on how their companies handle users' WiFi location data, their testimony will provide stark contrast in the companies' privacy conflicts of interests.

Google vs Apple concerning alignment with users' interests:

First, 97% of Google's ~$30b in annual revenues comes from advertisers, whereas ~99% of Apple's ~$87b in annual revenue comes directly from customers who buy and use Apple's products and services.

 

Google WiSpy II & Privacy Scandal #11 vs. Apple's Respect for Privacy

The current media and Congressional interest in the new revelation that Google and Apple have collected WiFi location information has largely missed an exceptionally salient point -- Google and Apple have very different privacy track records stemming from their very different attitudes toward privacy.

Google Privacy Scandal #11:

WSJ Confirms FTC-Google Privacy Settlement Flaw

The Wall Street Journal essentially confirmed the huge flaw in the FTC-Google privacy settlement that I recently spotlighted; see Julia Angwin's excellent privacy article: "Apple, Google Collect User Data."

The WSJ investigation confirmed the fact that Google (and Apple too) are tracking their mobile device users' movements and locations based on "unique device identifiers" without users' knowledge or authorization.

The confirmation of this fact, confirms my point that the FTC-Google privacy settlement has a huge loophole in that it does not include "unique device identifiers" to be private information, a ridiculous distinction because a "unique device identifier" is obviously as private as a name or IP address, which the FTC already considers "covered information." FYI: the proposed bipartisan Kerry-McCain privacy legislation considers "unique device identifiers" to be private information.

If the FTC is truly serious about enforcing its fair representation laws and sanctioning deceptive and unfair privacy practices when they find them, it should modify its draft privacy settlement with Google to include "unique device identifiers," as covered private information, in the final settlement with Google that soon will be codified by the court.

Mobile Content: Google's Commons vs. Apple's Market

Mobile content producers do not have a truly competitive choice between Google's 10% fee One Pass service and Apple's 30% fee subscription service, as much as they have a value system choice between Google's Internet commons model and Apple's property-rights-driven market.

 

  • Google's One Pass offering looks eerily like its Google TV offering, where major video content owners faced the platform choice between dumb content and Content is King."
    • Given that choice, content-is-king-oriented owners broadly rejected Google's property-hostile, dumb-content system/model.
  • As mobile content providers and carriers threatened with "dumb content" and bandwidth/spectrum commodification from Google's "free" commons model assess their real long term strategic competitive and value-creation options, they will increasingly look toward, and forward to, the nascent Microsoft-Nokia alliance offering and RIM's offering for content-is-king allies and true competitive choices.

As much as Google tries to fool Little Red Riding Hood content owners that their Grandma always had such big eyes and big teeth, most mobile content providers will spot the Google commons wolf in disguise.

 

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