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Apple’s privacy-fueled profit train claims its first victim in Facebook

Saturday February 5, 2022. 11:30 AM , from Mac Central
Welcome to the new home for Apple Breakfast! If you’re a reader of Macworld’s UK site, you’ll recognize this column that will now appear on every Saturday. If you’re new, this is our weekly collection of all the Apple news you missed this week, in a handy bite-sized roundup. We call it Apple Breakfast because we think it goes great with a morning cup of coffee or tea, but it’s cool if you want to give it a read during lunch or dinner hours too.

The profit and pain of privacy

Corporations sometimes do the right thing, but that’s very rarely why they do it. Nine times out of 10 the rightness is incidental: a secondary bonus that comes free with an action that was primarily motivated by profit (or PR, but that just means profit in the long term). It’s our job as a society, therefore, to incentivise ethical corporate behaviour. To make it, so far as possible, profitable.

We haven’t historically done a great job with that, but it does seem to be working out pretty well in the privacy sphere. After spending roughly 18 months bellyaching about the privacy measures in iOS 14 and 15, Facebook finally had to “face” the music this week, projecting lower-than-expected revenue for the upcoming quarter and blaming the whole thing on Apple. App Tracking Transparency will cost $10 billion in 2022, the social-media giant sobbed.

Facebook has portrayed itself as the victim in all this, and I take no pleasure from the difficulties this will cause for the small businesses which use Facebook’s platform. But it’s worth taking a moment to consider the merits of a business model that can be decimated by simply asking users if they’re okay with the whole thing. App Tracking Transparency tells users they are going to be tracked, and asks if they mind. If your business model was predicated on users not being given that choice, and collapses as soon as they are, it’s hard to argue that it was an ethical business model–and nor, now, is it a profitable one.

Apple, by contrast, did very well thank you in its most recent set of financials, a performance which among other things reflects the enduring loyalty felt by Apple customers. I don’t think Apple is a drastically nicer company than Facebook, or one that’s run by drastically nicer people–its treatment of staff has at times been troubling–but it has chosen a drastically different set of priorities. It focuses on building trust with customers and putting their needs first, or at least giving the appearance that that’s what it’s doing. Facebook has never done a good job of hiding the fact that its customers are advertisers, which is why a privacy policy that benefits users but hurts advertisers offends it so much.

To be honest I’ve always been cynical when people talk about Apple’s ethics: both when critics demand that the company be super-ethical, or when admirers claim it already is. That’s not what companies are for. We should regard them as the amoral profit engines that they are, and build a structure around them that directs their profit-seeking impulses in directions–whether that means developing great products or safeguarding our digital privacy–that benefit society as a whole.

Week in brief

Google is rolling out its solution to the green bubble problem and it’s pretty great.

The Macalope thinks Apple needs to start losing if we’re going to see real change in the App Store.

This week’s Different Think column looks at the nonsensical intersection of Apple and the high-end fashion world.

A New York court has dismissed a lawsuit accusing Apple of “false and misleading” iPhone advertising.

Apple is letting developers offer apps in the App Store that are excluded from search.

A fraudster who tricked Apple into replacing hundreds of fake iPhones with real ones worth almost $1m has been sentenced to 26 months in prison.

Apple’s new Unity Lights wallpapers are amazing. Download them on your device right here.

If you’ve had enough with Spotify, you can easily transfer all of your songs and playlists to Apple Music.

We reviewed the Logitech MX Keys Mini for Mac.

Getting started with Apple? Here’s how to get the most out of the expansive ecosystem.

We charged Simon Jary with the job of comparing all the iPhones’ battery capacity–an important element when considering a purchase.

Software, bugs & other issues


Several users are reporting an alarming drop in their MacBooks’ battery levels when in sleep mode, and it appears to be related to a Bluetooth issue in macOS 12.2.

iCloud Keychain is getting a boost with the addition of notes in iOS 15.4.

If you’ve gotten a 2FA text with a weird “ #123456” at the end, here’s why.

If you need to know which devices are signed into your iCloud account, there’s an easy way to check.

iOS 15.4 might bring Safari push notifications too.

The rumor mill


The new iPhone SE and new iPad Air have been spotted in India, having been imported for testing ahead of a likely spring launch. This follows their appearance in the Eurasian Economic Commission database last month.

Apple’s AR headset is coming. But will it avoid being another HomePod failure?

The nano glass version of the 27-inch iMac has been hit by substantial delays, which strongly suggests that a new iMac is on the way.

But it’s not all good news, and if you’re waiting for a 27-inch iMac with Apple silicon, it might be a little while.

Here’s everything we expect Apple to release in February 2022.

There is currently no WhatsApp app for the iPad, which nearly everyone agrees is a rubbish state of affairs. But that may soon change: boss Will Cathcart says WhatsApp would love to provide an iPad app and has most of the technology in place already.

And with that, we’re done for this week. If you’d like to get regular roundups, sign up for our newsletters. You can also follow us on Twitter for breaking news stories. See you next Saturday, enjoy your weekend, and stay Appley!

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