Ad-based Business Models and Privacy Are Mutually Exclusive


Tim Cook went on the attack Tuesday in a speech on the topic of privacy and encryption. He directly criticized companies that profit by selling customer data:

We believe the customer should be in control of their own information. You might like these so-called free services, but we don’t think they’re worth having your email, your search history and now even your family photos data mined and sold off for god knows what advertising purpose. And we think some day, customers will see this for what it is.

This is the clearest I’ve heard someone make this point, but let me go a step further. If a company bases its entire business model on selling your information, then they can’t also be protecting your privacy.

They are mutually exclusive.

Companies like Google and Facebook profit from knowing and selling information about you. It’s not a side effect of their business model, or a unintended consequence of their business model, it’s their entire business model. They directly profit by violating your privacy and the better they do it the more money they make.

Google isn’t evil, and Apple isn’t some kind of saint. But too often people are confused by the closed approach of the former, and the “infinite configurability” of the latter. They think that because Apple runs a restricted ecosystem, and Google is completely open with theirs, that this somehow equates to more privacy on the Google side.

It doesn’t.

If you care about your data, you should strongly consider switching away from platforms that make their money by selling it.


  1. This isn’t an Apple vs. Google thing; it’s a business model thing. Notice that Microsoft isn’t being criticized here. The simple reason is that, like Apple, their business is based around selling something other than your personal data.

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