May 25, 2022
In a new ad that launched last week, Apple highlights its privacy features by imagining the sale of a consumer’s data in a real-world, high-stakes auction.
In the spot, “Privacy on iPhone,” a young woman, Ellie, stumbles into a secret Sotheby’s-style data brokers’ auction that is putting her data up for sale to the highest bidder. The auction starts with bids being placed for her “wonderfully personal” emails, then progresses to her drug store purchase history and location data. The auctioneer declares, “It’s not creepy! It’s commerce!”
The auction then proceeds to sell her contacts (even her grandma’s), recent transactions, browsing history and her late-night texting habits.
As the auctioneer is about to put another coveted piece of her data up for bids, Ellie turns on Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT), which prevents third party apps from tracking mobile activity, and then Mail Privacy Protection, which helps combat email trackers. As she turns on the iOS tools, the bidders and eventually the auctioneer vanish.
The ad ends with the tagline: “It’s your data. iPhone helps keep it that way.”
Apple has made user privacy features core to its hardware and software products for years, gradually improving anti-tracking and other privacy-related features in iOS and macOS.
Speaking before the International Association of Privacy Professionals earlier this year, Apple CEO Tim Cook said, “A world without privacy is less imaginative, less empathetic, less innovative, less human” and noted that Apple has “a commitment to protecting people from a data-industrial complex built on a foundation of surveillance.”
Facebook has warned that Apple’s ATT technology will cost its ad business $10 billion in 2022, causing Apple to defend itself against accusations that it is handsomely benefiting from iOS privacy changes last year that has also impacted Snap and Google. Apple has received wide praise but also some skepticism about the effectiveness of iPhone’s privacy safeguards.
Tech writers commended the new ad for simplifying the complex process of how cookies work, but some wondered how many consumers care. Writing for BGR, Chris Smith stated, “Most internet users accept the trade-off, having their data harvested for ads in return for free services. Apple has been arguing for years that the trade-off isn’t necessary.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think about the effectiveness of Apple’s “Privacy on iPhone” commercial and the value of Apple’s positioning around privacy? Have consumers accepted the trade-offs of digital marketing or is privacy becoming a strong selling point for mobile phones?
“I think this is a strong ad and a strong message. Apple has been a leader in privacy and I believe that their positioning will resonate with many users.”
“It’s incredible, period. Consumers have ZERO clue – that’s how we got here in the first place. Apple doing a commercial as a REASON to buy the phone? Eh, maybe.”
“The ad is shocking and scary and right on. Kudos to Apple for raising awareness and persuading consumers to take action.”