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Apple goes out to swing in the duel of the data titans John Nathan

II just downloaded v14.5, the latest version of iOS, the operating system that works with my iPhone. Among the new features it can boast of are: the option to unlock the phone with Apple Watch while wearing a mask; support for something called AirTag; separate variants of the skintone for emoticons of couples; and a variety of voice options for Apple̵

7;s voice assistant, Siri. None of these “features” are of much use to me. But version 14.5 right add something that interests me deeply – the ability to control which apps are allowed to track my activity on other companies’ apps and websites.

Apple calls this “application tracking transparency” (ATT) and refers to code known as “advertiser identity” or IDFA. It turns out that every iPhone comes with one of these identifiers, which aims to provide fraudsters with aggregated data on the interests of the user. Consider this for a moment, and then think of the irony of a company that has been selling such branded devices since 2013, while boasting about its commitment to consumer privacy. Apple’s defense, of course, is that ingenious users could disable IDFA through phone settings and privacy menus, a response that connoisseurs of evasion will recognize as a Jesuit trick used by technology companies that know most customers prefer. to eat raw seaweed than to counterfeit with the factory default settings of their devices.

But iOS 14.5 obviously changes all that; iPhone users are now wondering if they want to join the tracking. A pop-up dialog box appears saying, “Allow [app name] to track your activity on other companies’ apps and websites? “and provide two options:” ask the app not to be tracked “and” allow “. By the way, keep in mind that it says “ask” instead of “say”, another fine indicator of how much technology companies are actually interested in their users’ agency.

When Apple announced months ago that it planned to make this change, the big pictures in the tracking rocket failed, rightly saying that many iPhone users would refuse to be tracked when offered such an obvious escape route. Suddenly, the lucrative business of collecting user data for the sale of data brokers or linking a user’s application data to third-party data collected for the purpose of targeting ads was under threat. Under the new rules, Apple will also affect other application processes, including sharing location data with data brokers and deploying hidden trackers for ad analysis. For a moment, surprised by the fierceness of the storm, Apple decided to postpone the introduction to give the industry “time to adapt” to the coming reality, thus violating the golden rule that gangsters should never be given an even rest.

On the eve of last week, we were treated to a stimulating display of frantic hyperbole from the capitalist observation crowd, led, as usual, by Facebook. Serious newspapers have featured expensive full-page ads distorting that the brutal and arbitrary changes imposed by Apple will harm small businesses, which will no longer be able to reach their customers as easily as before. Apple, Facebook claims, abuses “the dominant market position to prefer its own data collection, while making it almost impossible for its competitors to use the same data.” They say it’s about privacy, but it’s about profit. We are not mistaken. It’s all part of Apple’s business transformation from innovative hardware products to data-driven software and media. “

As an example of a pile of slag, which he calls a black kettle, this takes some beating. There is also the performance of a company with crying crocodile tears worth 872 billion dollars due to the plight of small businesses, which can not reach its target audience for embroidered handkerchiefs and humane rabbit traps. After all, it’s hard to see how a rabbit trap seller needs information about what someone is doing in a fitness app to advertise effectively to their customers.

But before you get the violins for a bad, misunderstood Apple (currently worth $ 2.2 million), it’s worth remembering this, because New York Times pointed out, strangely, he forgot to mention that his new enthusiasm for transparency is good for both his business and iPhone owners. It’s all very good to brag that the iPhones are great for privacy and the brilliance is that targeted digital advertising is dangerous, but it becomes less convincing if you remember that Apple takes billions of dollars every year from Google. the largest target advertising company on the planet, with its search engine defaulting to Apple devices.

The ironic puzzle behind this whirlwind of corporate excellence is that no one knows how big a deal Apple’s new facility will be. Will iPhone users massively abandon tracking, as data tracking racketeers fear? Or are people actually calmer about it than they tell sociologists? Only time will tell. So far, the only sure thing is that this columnist is giving up.

What I read

Numbers game
The woman who shattered free market myths is wonderful New York Times an essay by Zachary Carter on Joan Robinson, the underrated heroine of Keynesian economics.

Swamp standards
In a stunning Buffler essay, Sammy Emory asks why peat bogs get such a bad press.

Chips with everything
Someone has to run the chip factories. Substack by Noah Smith on why we neglect stem training at our peril.

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