Posted by Martin Nixon
10 May, 2021

Everyone knows that the gathering of data on our personal habits, likes and dislikes has become big business for tech companies.

Today, any business or organisation that wishes to target specific audiences, either to sell a product or service, to raise awareness of an environmental issue, or to promote a particular political point of view, has powerful tools at their disposal.

Putting it plainly, our personal data is harvested, accumulated, distributed, and auctioned to the highest bidder. The industry that grew from those early days of smartphone technology is, according to Apple, worth an incredulous $280 billion per annum.

But in a recent update of its operating system, Apple is about to throw this model into a state of flux. From now on, with a single finger swipe on an iPhone, users will be able to prevent their IDFA – the identifying code that enables apps to track users – from being disclosed. The company has implemented various measures to prevent alternative means of harvesting this information. Of course, this is limited to your device only and Apple has no jurisdiction on the cloud, which is where the information about users is actually aggregated and shared.

The decision has been part of Apple’s strategy for some time. Over a decade ago, Steve Jobs stated, “I believe people are smart and some of them want to share more data than others. Ask them. Ask them every time. Make them tell you to stop asking, even if they get tired of asking them. Let them know precisely what you plan to do with their data.” His successor Tim Cook has maintained this stance. Earlier in the year, Cook said, “If everything in our lives can be aggregated and sold on, we lose so much more than data, we lose the freedom to be human”.

Cynics might point out that Apple has, of course, started to expand its own advertising model, tracking iPhone users in similar ways to Google, TikTok, et al. But if Apple does get its way and does win the battle over our data, it is clearly demonstrating its power over the biggest companies in the world. If you’re interested in learning more about this subject and how it might affect you, take a look at this presentation by Apple, which describes how data is currently harvested on a day-to-day basis.