It feels weird to say that the biggest company on the face of the Earth seems to have all but disappeared, but in the wake of disastrous headlines for nearly every major tech company in Silicon Valley, it’s worth saying: Remember Apple?
Facebook and Google have been wracked with controversies related to the widespread use of your data and their democracy- and industry-changing black-box algorithms. Amazon is swallowing US infrastructure, crushing small, locally owned companies, and holding a sweepstakes for local government tax handouts.
While Mark Zuckerberg is getting summoned to Congress and getting reamed out on national television for having no good good answer for why anyone should trust Facebook with their data, Apple CEO Tim Cook is busy showing the world his pencil.
Apple has its own host of issues—labor practices up and down its supply chain, walled gardens, the environmental toll of creating highly intricate devices that are difficult to repair and impossible to upgrade. But Apple’s fundamental business model does not focus on turning its customers into sellable datasets. While Apple has had every opportunity to turn its devices and services into data collection opportunities, it has instead largely focused on a straightforward business model of selling and facilitating the sale of goods, services, and software.
Apple’s focus on protecting its customers’ privacy has given it the moral high ground—both when the FBI asked the company to hack into an iPhone, and now, when it seems Silicon Valley is going to drown with the constant drip-drip-drip of new privacy abuses becoming widely known.
“The truth is, we could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer—if our customer was our product,” Cook told Recode Wednesday. “We’ve elected not to do that.”
Apple has gotten shit—even from its customers—for this mentality; Siri sucks in part because it doesn’t funnel your data off to a cloud somewhere. Say what you want about Apple’s prices, its hardware, and its services. But when every other company decided to get into the business of big data, Apple gave the privacy conscious another option.