Consumer privacy was a hot topic at this year’s CES, which likely accounted for Apple’s first official appearance at the show in years: Apple’s Senior Director of Global Privacy Jane Horvath sitting in on a panel about privacy. Tim Cook has defined his time as CEO with a strong privacy stance, but the Washington Post’s Geoffrey Fowler was there in person to challenge Apple to do better.
Last year, Apple put up a massive billboard outside of CES that said, “What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone.” Fowler asked Horvath what the company is doing to make that statement true. Horvath’s vague response was unsatisfying: “We’re constantly innovating, including in operating process.”
You may recall that Fowler penned an investigation for the Washington Post that revealed over 5400 trackers sending information from his iPhone over a week (see “iOS App Trackers Are Watching You,” 1 June 2019). And of course, the New York Times has been reporting on concerns about location privacy (see “The New York Times Reveals How Completely Our Every Move Is Tracked,” 19 December 2019).
Fowler points out that while Apple is careful to encrypt information for its own services, it does little to police third-party apps. Since Apple approves every app distributed via the App Store, it could certainly do more here, especially with all the resources at its disposal.
Of course, even with Fowler’s well-directed criticism of Apple, he acknowledges that other companies are worse offenders. He wrote:
Facebook’s privacy chief Erin Egan was also on that CES panel and said, with a straight face, “I think privacy is protected today for people on Facebook.”
Egan said that despite Facebook being slapped with a $5 billion fine by the Federal Trade Commission for privacy violations in July 2019.