Tim Cook is pulling no punches in his war of words against social media’s data practices and the damage they are doing to our country and our society.
“In a recent speech in Brussels marking International Data Privacy Day, Apple CEO Tim Cook went on the offensive against Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook,” writes Justin Bariso in Inc. “Cook’s speech seems to be a direct response to Facebook’s recent attack on Apple, in which the world’s largest social network took out full-page ads in several newspapers attacking Apple’s new privacy changes.”
As publishing industry expert BoSacks reminds us, advertising has undergone a profound shift in the last decade; we are no longer the customer, but the product.
“There once was a time when advertising was focused on imparting information,” he writes in a recent newsletter. “Sadly today it is more concerned with collecting information.
“Facebook, Google, Amazon, and damn near every digital giant is exploring every microscopic part of our lives,” he continues. “That is not a generic, anonymous life, but a specific personal intrusion on every individual in the modern-day ecosystem. It is evident to anyone that we are living through the most profound transformation of the media industry since Gutenberg’s invention of movable type and the printing press in approximately 1439.”
Heady stuff … and certainly helps explain the low-grade anxiety so many have around privacy issues.
Cook, as head of the famously pro-privacy Apple, insists that advertising has existed for decades without demanding endless streams of personal data. Yet as Bosacks notes, we are so deeply embedded in the process through the technology in our pockets that we really can’t function without all this tech. And let’s face it; if data intrusion is the price of admission, many will gladly pony up.
The larger problem is the rules of civilized society in this war for engagement haven’t kept up.
“We have combined digital technology with a mutant form of capitalism—surveillance capitalism,” writes BoSacks. “It works by providing free services that billions of people cheerfully use, enabling the providers of those services to monitor the behavior of those users in astonishing detail without their explicit consent.”
This approach justifies the “engagement at any cost” principles that underscore social media algorithms and foster endless cycles of misinformation, conspiracy theories and violence.
“We can no longer turn a blind eye to a theory of technology that says all engagement is good engagement, the longer the better, and all with the goal of collecting as much data as possible,” Cook said.
“Too many are still asking the question, ‘How much can we get away with?’ When they need to be asking, ‘What are the consequences?’” Cook continued. “It is long past time to stop pretending that this approach doesn’t come with a cost. A polarization of lost trust, and yes, of violence.”
For advertisers, it’s time to face the harsh reality that your customers, given clear information and a choice, will opt out of intrusive data tracking. Do you to take advantage of the privacy of your audience while you still can, or do you adapt and adopt a more customer-serving approach now?
“We believe that ethical technology is technology that works for you,” said Cook. “It’s technology that helps you sleep, not keeps you up. It tells you when you’ve had enough. It gives you space to create or draw or write or learn, not refresh just one more time.”
As a lifestyle brand, Apple can sound authentic saying that. Facebook would have a tough time selling that. We may have just witnessed the beginning of the end of the social media data business model. Facebook, as BoSacks points out, is lashing out.
“On a fourth-quarter earnings call last Wednesday, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg lashed out at Apple, calling Apple anti-competitive,” BoSacks writes.
“The Apple and Facebook wars are heating up,” he continues, “with Facebook threatening to sue Apple. This war of words and lawsuits is just the beginning, and I will be keeping my eye on it and report to you any developments.”
These are interesting days, my friends … and BoSacks spells it out clearly.
“We have combined digital technology with a mutant form of capitalism—surveillance capitalism. It works by providing free services that billions of people cheerfully use, enabling the providers of those services to monitor the behavior of those users in astonishing detail without their explicit consent,” he writes.
“It takes our private experiences and turns them into revenue opportunities,” BoSacks continues. “It changes everything. It’s impossible to overstate the peril of our times. We used to fear the totalitarian government who knew everything about us, followed us everywhere. We are well on our way to such a nightmare. Except it isn’t our government that knows everything about us, follows us everywhere, knows who we are talking to and what we are saying, and keeps secret files about us. It is the marketing industry.”
Is this kind of marketing industry you want to be a part of? Every brand has choices to make, and we can’t pretend we don’t understand the potential consequences.