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Data Ethics is Embedded in Apple’s Business Culture

Blog. A number of companies market themselves with their approach to customers’ data and privacy and differentiate themselves from multinational data giants. One of the better examples that has built a brand that is synonymous with privacy is Apple.
One of the world’s richest companies have a particularly good argument to stand out as a privacy-conscious tech company. Its business model is based mainly on selling physical products like hardware, and not to capitalize on data by selling access to their customers to third parties.

Apple is also known for a notorious focus on privacy within the company’s organization, where a team of privacy experts are involved in all processes and have direct access to Tim Cook.

Apple has what might be called a data ethical business culture.

Apple’s chief executive Tim Cook did not hold back. As the keynote speaker at a dinner in Washington DC in mid-2015, he gave his main competitors a proper dressing-down.

“Our privacy is being attacked from all sides,” he said. “Silicon Valley’s biggest companies are gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong. And it’s not the kind of company that Apple wants to be. We believe that people have a fundamental right to privacy”

Cook’s words were clearly aimed at Google, Facebook and other data-driven business models, providing ‘free’ services, but where customers pay an unknown price with their data.

How is Apple’s data ethically?
Apple’s privacy branding is not just marketing. Their messages are closely connected with a data ethical business culture.

Apple’s Senior Director of Global Privacy, Jane Horvath described this in early 2017:

  • Data Ethics is for Apple to understand what is’ right ‘and what is’ wrong’ seen with the customers’ eyes. 
  • The data ethical approach is driven entirely from top management and is also supported as a value among employees.
  • Privacy is strategically and intentionally part of their product design. All product teams have a privacy expert as a member, who is involved from the very beginning of all processes.
  • Apple believes that their technology should give individuals control over the way their data is collected, used and shared.
  • Whenever possible they don’t collect data.  And data can be processed directly on customers’ devices.
  • When there is a need for server-processing of data with SIRI, News, Spotlight and Maps, data is collected anonymously without being identified.

See Jane Horvath tell about Apple’s data ethical approach.

What can others do?
Today, many citizens that lack oversight and control over the data they feed to on-line services. It’s personal data such as name and address, diseases and disorders, needs and dreams of our family and friends network, our behavioural patterns and habits. As a result of the lack of control, we see a growing skepticism and concern. Especially after the Snowden-revelations in 2013 of US intelligence NSA’s collection and monitoring of data from major US Internet companies, many consumers are realising that Web 2.0. not only is big data, it is also big brother.

It would be easy and logical for many European companies and organizations to follow Apple’s example. Many private and public companies already comply with the European legislation, which is somewhat tougher than the US. Moreover, many also show basic respect for privacy and often store data on European soil outside the NSA’s reach. 

A data ethical approach fosters trust and confidence among your customers. If a company has a data ethical approach, then it should tell its clients it clearly. For example, 8 out of 10 consumers think that all companies sell data to third parties. Which is not true. Therefore, it is necessary to take nothing for granted. Have a clear privacy policy that explains what you do and don’t do with data and how you can create true value with data on behalf of your own company and the user.