Apple May Not Be Quite as Outraged About Privacy as Tim Cook Pretends

Christoph Dernbach/DPA via ZUMA

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Here is Apple CEO Tim Cook two months ago, slamming Facebook for its invasions of user privacy:

We’ve never believed that these detailed profiles of people, that have incredibly deep personal information that is patched together from several sources, should exist,” Cook said. Later, he added that those detailed profiles of consumers “can be abused against our democracy. It can be abused by advertisers as well.” Apple has long touted privacy as one of the draws of being in the Apple ecosystem, and Cook underscored this again, claiming that Apple “could make a ton of money if we monetized our customers” but that the company has elected not to do it.

Today the New York Times reveals that Facebook has long allowed device makers access to “vast amounts of its users’ personal information.” Apple’s response this time comes not from Tim Cook, but from a faceless spokesman:

An Apple spokesman said the company relied on private access to Facebook data for features that enabled users to post photos to the social network without opening the Facebook app, among other things. Apple said its phones no longer had such access to Facebook as of last September.

Here are a few more details:

Some device partners can retrieve Facebook users’ relationship status, religion, political leaning and upcoming events, among other data….Facebook’s view that the device makers are not outsiders lets the partners go even further, The Times found: They can obtain data about a user’s Facebook friends, even those who have denied Facebook permission to share information with any third parties.

In interviews, several former Facebook software engineers and security experts said they were surprised at the ability to override sharing restrictions. “It’s like having door locks installed, only to find out that the locksmith also gave keys to all of his friends so they can come in and rifle through your stuff without having to ask you for permission,” said Ashkan Soltani, a research and privacy consultant who formerly served as the F.T.C.’s chief technologist.

….Facebook acknowledged that some partners did store users’ data — including friends’ data — on their own servers. A Facebook official said that regardless of where the data was kept, it was governed by strict agreements between the companies.

Apple says it doesn’t monetize its own customers, but apparently they’re happy to monetize Facebook’s. I wonder if Tim Cook’s righteous outrage about privacy violations is real, or if it’s because Apple doesn’t really have any good ways to monetize its limited customer information in the first place?

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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