Unethical uses of Information Systems: Apple
Hi all, It’s Ciarán once again, this blog will discuss Apple, the multinational tech company. Although there are many valid complaints concerning the ethics of Apple regarding worker’s rights and their questionable tax payments (They owe Ireland about €13 billion), Apple is at the forefront of consumer data protection.
Apple’s belief in consumer privacy
In 2014, Tim Cook (Apple’s CEO) said ‘users of internet services began to realise that when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product,”. While allegations of Apple collecting data exist, It’s generally accepted that they have long-championed consumer data privacy. It’s even refused to help the FBI on multiple occasions to break into terrorist’s iPhones in the USA believing it violated Constitutional Rights. They have requested this at least 11 times. Find out more about the Apple-FBI dispute here. This behaviour seems to indicative of Apple’s belief in data protection.
iOS 14: Adjust your app permissions
In terms of protecting your privacy from other companies; Apple plans to adjust the iOS 14 operating system, which will impact the digital advertising market by more than $300bn. On average, every app downloaded from Apple’s App Store contains six trackers that can be used by Facebook, and others, to follow users around the web, collect data, and target ads (Thornhill,2021). It’s expected that two-thirds of users will block tracking with this feature.
The plan is to increase the ability to control tracking services on each app with regular pop-up services. This way YOU, the consumer, can control what apps have certain permissions. As expected, there’s been massive pushback from companies like Facebook since most of their income is via targeted ad revenue.
There are many ways companies have tried to get around this such as;
Device fingerprinting: Used to recognise repeat visits from the same device, even across multiple apps.
Hashed emails: Sign-up emails are tracked and shared by companies without handing over individual emails.
Chinese advertising: CAID
Other conflicts that will be interesting to watch develop concerning information systems and privacy concern Chinese tech companies like ByteDance (TikTok) and Tencent (Gaming company). These tech companies are testing a tool to bypass Apple’s IDFA system. IDFA or Identifier for Advertisers is a code that apple assigns to each iPhone for 3rd parties to track users for targeted advertising. The Chinese Advertising Association has in turn launched a system called CAID, which they believe could be a substitute for Apple’s IDFA. (McGee, 2021). It’s worth noting that this system is backed by the Chinese Government, not just a few rogue companies, so there is serious traction behind this. It will be very interesting to see how these events transpire. Will Apple essentially ‘ban’ Chinese apps off their App Store to uphold their moral principles, or will they let them away with it, considering the political aspects and the massive Chinese user base?
For my next blog, I’ll be doing a joint post with Cathal to discuss the recent scandal of IKEA using information systems to ‘spy’ on its workers.
Thornhill, J., 2021. Apple’s move to increase privacy strengthens its walled garden. [online] Ft.com. Available at:
<https://www.ft.com/content/e4b2ff3b-1fb9-4f6b-837a-ab0368fb7125> [Accessed 7 April 2021].
McGee, P., 2021. China’s tech giants test way around Apple’s new privacy rules. [online] Ft.com. Available at:
<https://www.ft.com/content/520ccdae-202f-45f9-a516-5cbe08361c34> [Accessed 17 April 2021].