Apple takes swipe at Google and others with privacy-themed billboard

The company has had a rough start to 2019 with heavy stock losses, but the tech giant hopes to change the music by focusing on its core beliefs.

Apple has grabbed industry attention—and headlines—with a billboard near the annual CES tech conference.

The huge ad on the side of a hotel overlooks the Las Vegas convention center where many of tech’s hottest companies and sharpest minds will assemble. Apple hopes that its strong stance on privacy can help preserve its brand reputation and strong customer bond.

The PR stunt comes after a rough start to 2019 for the tech company. Softening iPhone sales and the U.S./China trade war sent its stock price plummeting.

Can the company start to turn the page with a billboard?

CNBC reported:

The message, which takes up about 13 floors of building, says: “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone” with the URL to Apple’s privacy website.

While Apple’s ad focuses specifically on phones, it’s really a broader message about the companies it competes with in multiple industries.

Apple’s message is clear: we’re not trying to sell your data, while Amazon and Google use your data — if sometimes anonymously — to try to sell you stuff.

Amazon and Google are expected to have a lot to show at CES. Partners of both companies, from TV to appliance makers, will unveil gadgets with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant built-in. Google has also said it tripled the size of its presence at CES from last year.

The sign sends viewers to a URL where Apple elaborates on its privacy bona fides.

It writes:

At Apple, we believe privacy is a fundamental human right.

And so much of your personal information — information you have a right to keep private — lives on your Apple devices.

Your heart rate after a run. Which news stories you read first. Where you bought your last coffee. What websites you visit. Who you call, email, or message.

Every Apple product is designed from the ground up to protect that information. And to empower you to choose what you share and with whom.

We’ve proved time and again that great experiences don’t have to come at the expense of your privacy and security. Instead, they can support them.

The design of Apple’s billboard is reminiscent of other moral stands from brand managers, such as Patagonia’s “The President Stole Your Land” campaign. The all-black background with white lettering keeps the message simple and powerful.

Despite Apple’s strong stance on privacy, the move might be a defensive stroke, given that some recent merchandise hasn’t seen the popularity of earlier juggernauts such as the iPod or iPhone.

CNBC continued:

Apple might also be playing defense, though. Its HomePod isn’t as popular as the Google Home or Amazon Echo. November data from research firm Canalys has Amazon and Google with 31.9 percent and 29.8 percent share of the smart speaker market, respectively, while Apple isn’t even included as a big player.

Apple doesn’t usually attend CES—not as an exhibitor, anyway—and this year is no exception. The billboard is the tech company’s only presence at the event, demonstrating that it can still have an impact there.

Business Insider reported:

Apple doesn’t attend CES as an exhibitor, meaning it doesn’t make any announcements at the show and it doesn’t appear on the trade show floor. Its employees do show up to observe the competition.

This wouldn’t be the first time the company has mocked its competitors. An ad targeted at Android users from April 2018 showed the App Store as much safer than rival stores like Google Play, thanks to Apple’s strict vetting processes.

The move is also consistent with other messages from the company about privacy. Tim Cook delivered a big speech on data security last year, and the company has fought with the FBI over the agency’s demand that Apple provide a backdoor to an encrypted iPhone.

However, some aren’t ready to give Apple the ethical high ground.

Gizmodo wrote:

Android and GoogleSamsung, and Amazon have all had their fair share of big privacy and/or data collection scandals, to be sure. And it’s true that Apple does take measures to ensure that user data is protected, including by anonymizing information. Apple’s T2 security chip is an incredible piece of security hardware. But Apple is not without blame for its part in instances of jeopardized user privacy.

As just one example, researchers found in 2017 that Apple had granted Uber special permissions for a screen-recording capability, which raised concerns that the company or a potential hacker could steal passwords and other personal information. …

Security Researcher Will Strafach said at the time that Uber appeared to be the only third-party developer with such permissions, adding: “Considering Uber’s past privacy issues I am very curious how they convinced Apple to allow this.”

Another Apple privacy highlight includes the revelation by Strafach months before that Accuweather’s iOS app was tracking users’ locations and sharing that information with its service partner Reveal Mobile, even when users turned off location access.

On Twitter, tech reporters have called out Apple for trying to have its cake and eat it, too.

TechCrunch’s security editor says Apple’s claims are misleading:

Others see Apple’s participation at CES, even with just a billboard, as an admission by the company that things are not going well:

Others loved the move:

One tweet might sum it up:

What do you think of Apple’s move, PR Daily readers?

(Image via)

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