Insurance. No one likes it. No one really wants it. We definitely hate paying for it. And why wouldn’t we? Insurance companies are notorious for not wanting to pay out any money on a claim and sometimes dropping people if they do successfully collect on one. After all, insurance companies aren’t really about protecting you, they’re about making money. As the sniveling weasel in The Incredibles put it, “What about our shareholders? Who’s looking out for them, huh?”
As one would expect, insurance companies are always looking to cut their costs. For that, they have turned to data collection and analysis. TARTLE is of course big on data and what we can learn from it. However, we are not fans of the way insurance companies and pretty much everyone else tends to make use of third party data for their purposes. Not only is the sourcing of the data unethical in itself, it can also wind up being discriminatory. Not intentionally, sometimes assumptions are made that are written into the algorithms that analyze the data. Those assumptions may seem like no big deal at first, but they can be processed in such a way that they exclude far more people than intended, people that seem to fit a given profile but in the end differ in certain important ways the algorithm isn’t meant to look for. That’s one of the dangers of completely automating everything. When an AI is running the show, it doesn’t care about any programmed biases, it just does what it is told and does it completely ruthlessly. That is why Connecticut recently reminded insurers in the tiny state that they need to be careful to avoid any sort of discrimination in their use of data. Easier said than done.
To illustrate that, let’s say the insurance company offered a discount to anyone who linked a Whoop or a Fitbit to their insurance account. That might seem innocuous. Certainly, they are sourcing data in a better than normal way since people have to opt in to share it. However, those things on your wrist cost money. Money that not everyone might be able to afford. Just a Whoop subscription runs around $30 a month. How many people are going to be paying that so they can opt into a discount program? Not many, especially since that discount will probably not defray the costs of the subscription.
On one hand, it seems perfectly reasonable to grant a discount to people who are willing to share more of their health data. Why wouldn’t an insurance company want to incentivize that behavior? Of course they would. On the other hand, not everyone can afford it, as stated above. Which makes this a case of exclusion based on economics. Intentional? Probably not. Not too many people actually wake up in the morning and ask themselves how they can screw over poor people today. Not even people working for an insurance company.
So, what is the solution? How can an insurance company reward customers for sharing their health data without excluding those who can’t afford the necessary devices? TARTLE has exactly the right solution. We offer these companies the chance to reach out directly to their customers. The company can ask its customers on TARTLE to share whatever data they would like and when someone chooses to do so, the company simply pays the person for the data. That is something that virtually anyone can take advantage of. Yes, there are people who can’t afford any sort of device to work with TARTLE on, but if we are being honest, they don’t have insurance anyway. The solutions to that problem are on a whole other level (though there are other ways other organizations can use us to tackle that one). What we offer is the chance for insurance and other companies to interact directly with their customers to get the information they need and for those people to be incentivized. It’s a win/win scenario for everyone willing to take advantage of it.
What’s your data worth? www.tartle.co
Forests, Lasers, and Data.
Time for another episode of cool things happening in the world of environmental research. Today, we have a project that is helping us better understand the forests. The tool being used for this project? Lasers!
Researchers from the University of Gottingen have been looking into the many different kinds of structures that exist in forests around the world. Using 3D laser scanners, they went all over the globe, recording 3D models of the forests they visited over the span of two years. One of the things they specifically focused on was primeval forests; those that haven’t had their development affected by humans. Believe it or not that is still about 30% of the world’s forests. One of the things these researchers hope to accomplish by doing this is to better understand how humans affect forest development by comparing and contrasting the different structures to be found in ancient forests and those that have been altered by human activity.
This looks to be very good research. For maybe the first time, scientists are doing a study into how humans affect forest development using an actual control group. Before, we had really only been comparing past information on a given forest with what is happening now. There is nothing wrong with that and it can still be very useful, but it can be very difficult to say with certainty how things might have been different. Now, with these 3D models that have been created, being used in conjunction with satellite data, researchers can find two areas of a similar forest structure and climate, one that has been affected by people and one that has not. Then they can be tracked over a period of time to observe how their development diverges. For perhaps the first time ever, they will be able to track two similar forest structures over a period of time, providing us with excellent information on the environment and our impact on it.
Is that really possible? Isn’t most of the primeval forest actually rainforest in the south of the world and the human influenced stuff the boreal forests in the north? Not as much as you would think. There is plenty of rainforest in Brazil that has been affected by commercial development and there are other rainforests in North America in the states of Washington and Alaska that a person could wander in for days and not find a trace of humanity. There is plenty of boreal forest in the North American and Northern Asia that is also untouched by humans. People don’t realize how many millions of acres are actually protected from any kind of development.
There are of course different levels of development as well. Some areas of forest are surrounded by heavy human development, some have small towns scattered within them. Others have been logged and replanted while others are crisscrossed with trails for various off road vehicles. Some of these forests have been developed in some way for decades, others for just a few years.
This new study is valuable precisely because using the researchers’ methods, it will be possible to track these various stages and types of development to actually see what the long term effects are. The results will be a huge help to understanding human impact on the environment and helping us learn the best ways to minimize it while still making it possible for people to have homes to live in as well get out and enjoy some of that nature we are talking about.
TARTLE would also like to commend the researchers on their use of our basic philosophy. They didn’t just rely on satellites and or reports from others. Instead, they did the hard work of going to the source and getting the primary data they needed to get the best possible results.
What’s your data worth?
Digitainability is a bit of an odd term. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. So what is it? It’s the idea of using our digital technology to get to a more sustainable economy. We talked a lot about that last time without explicitly using the term. It will involve making use of our ability to collect and analyze data in order to identify places where we can be more efficient, to recycle more, places where policy can be refined to help promote greater sustainability.
One of the key uses of AI will be in working in phases to get from where we are now to where we want to be. Imagine a giant ocean liner trying to make a turn. It doesn’t exactly happen on a dime. Trying to force that ship to turn too tightly risks literally breaking the ship apart and killing everyone aboard. The global, or even your local economic system isn’t terribly different. Trying to change everything all at once will cause massive damage that will do far more harm than good. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to change. Too often, the fact that changing too much too fast is risky has too often been used as an excuse for not changing at all. So, change we must, but without losing sight of the fact that we have to be careful with how we do it. Business as usual may not be able to continue but business completely upended won’t help much either.
One way that AI would be of immense help is if we could take all the information we have about how certain changes have affected an area over a certain period of time. That can provide a lot of data for an AI to process in order to determine the effect similar changes will have in a given area. What’s even better is if the people working on such a problem made use of TARTLE and our resources in order to do this. By making use of our data marketplace, they can get real time data from people who are being directly affected by policy changes as they happen. That can then lead to near real time refinements on the ground as well as improving the model with better data. This can lead to determining how best to transition to a sustainable economy in a way that won’t completely upset the apple cart.
There is a strong and growing demand for this kind of shift. You see this in the drive for renewable energy, the tiny house movement, and even in boycotts. People will often boycott a product if they think the product is being produced through unethical means, such as palm oil boycotts in Europe. Critics will point out that the company will just shift to a different market that doesn’t care about how the palm oil was produced. The business might go so far as to treat their employees in third world countries even worse in order to make up for lost profits.
While this is probably true, it’s also a total copout. It denies that the people running the business have any agency themselves, that they simply have to do things the way they do them in order to even exist. Obviously we at TARTLE completely reject such an idea. We have to be able to expect real change out of companies as well as individuals. Pretending that certain entities just aren’t capable of that change is remarkably unhelpful and will actually make changing to something better even harder.
That’s another one of the ways we can use AI to our benefit. Our data can be used to educate the recalcitrant, to show them the impact of different choices on the world as a whole. We can then hope that people will make the kinds of decisions needed to build a truly better world.
What’s your data worth?
Digital World and Sustainability
Artificial Intelligence is all the rage these days. There are universities doing research, op-eds in newspapers, and even several articles in this space talking about artificial intelligence and machine learning and how it will affect our lives in the years to come. Unfortunately, most of the focus has been on how it can be used to improve the bottom lines for businesses around the world. Don’t get us wrong, we’re not knocking the profit motive. However, we are knocking the idea that you have to keep on making more and more profit. That drive has a way of dehumanizing people (and frankly even the people with the drive) and making people lose focus on the things that really matter in the world.
One of the effects of the constant drive for more profits is the drive to consume more things. More and more we look like Huxley’s Brave New World in which consumerism is promoted by the state, to the extent they put out slogans like “the less stitches, the more riches” to promote people buying new clothes instead of mending what they already have. Every economic ‘stimulus’ is given in the hopes that people use that money to go buy a bunch of stuff to keep things moving. Consumerism is a huge problem in the modern world. This is true both spiritually and materially, though for this article we’ll be focused on the material problems.
Whether it is the government or business telling us that the way to happiness is the latest and greatest smartphone, TV, car, etc. this creates problems. All of that stuff requires resources to make. Minerals, trees, oils and who knows what are used every time something like that is purchased. And the old goes into landfills, which are gigantic, so gigantic in some places that people literally live on them in places like India, making a living off reselling some of the things in them. We’ve gotten better at reusing a lot of that stuff, being able to recycle things made of the rare minerals mined in Africa or melting down plastics so they can be remolded into something else. However, there is a finite amount of stuff on the planet and a growing population that will naturally keep using that stuff. We might well find ourselves able to get into space and use resources there before much longer, but it wouldn’t hurt to also reduce our dependency on the drive to constantly have more stuff as well.
Which brings us back to our primary issue for this article, how can we use our digital technology to reduce that need? How can we use things like AI to make things more sustainable? Fortunately, our ability to collect and analyze data is just as unparalleled as our increased drive to consumerism. Improved analytics can be used for a variety of efforts that will make farming more efficient, enabling people to get the most food out of a plot of land while doing the least amount of harm to the environment.
We can learn how to build safer, smaller, and lighter vehicles so that they use fewer resources, are more fuel efficient and still allow people to get from point A to point B. AI can be used to study the effects of different zoning laws. Would it be better to allow more mixing of business and residential areas so people don’t need to drive ten minutes whenever they need a gallon of milk?
There is a lot of potential here. And a lot of ways that potential can be undermined. We’ll be exploring both of those a bit more next time.
What’s your data worth?
Reliable Data, Reliable Studies, and a Bright Future
Companies spend a ton of money on studies, both internal and from third parties. These studies are meant to evaluate their products and practices. What can they do better? What is the next thing people want to see? What do they never want to see again? All of these are important questions for any organization that exists to market any kind of product or service to others, whether it be baseball bats, rockets, or a homeless shelter.
However, often the tools they use to conduct those studies and produce those reports discussed in meeting rooms around the nation are unreliable. Not dishonest necessarily, simply the wrong tool for the job. TARTLE is proposing a tool that will allow any organization to get the information they need to get truly reliable reports, reports that will accurately reflect where the organization is at and so help provide a more reliable guide for the future. You want every report to hit it out of the park and we want to help make that a reality. If that can be possible, then you will not only be successful, you’ll be so far ahead of the competition that they’ll be wondering how you managed to pull that off.
What is it that makes those other tools so unreliable? After all, you’re spending plenty of cash for them, you would hope they would at least be reliable. The thing is, there is every incentive for these tools (other data and research companies) to make sure they get as much money out of you as they can. That means they may not always be producing the best product. Sometimes it just means they are producing a report that looks and sounds good. Be honest, a thick stack of paper with a glossy cover full of graphs and big words is impressive. While such things might be very impressive, they don’t necessarily make for good reports. Because at the end of the day what matters is not whether or not the report looks good, what matters is that it gives you the kind of information that will help your organization make effective decisions in the future.
There is also the fact that those reports are going through a filter, someone else’s filter. Yes, you give them instructions and maybe even have some oversight, yet, everyone has a filter, an interpretative lens that is all but impossible to completely eradicate. Wouldn’t you rather the filter be yours? Wouldn’t you rather do the analysis in the way that you want it done so that you are getting the answers you need, not the answers someone else thinks you need?
The tool TARTLE offers lets you do exactly that. You are the one in full control of what data you get and how you analyze it. You also know exactly where it is coming from. We put you in direct contact with the individuals who are the sources for that data that gets aggregated by all those third parties. Would you or would not rather get the raw unfiltered data? Doing so lets you be flexible, lets you adjust things on the fly as needed so you are getting the information you need when you need it. That allows you to make much better, much more timely decisions than are possible when you are going with giant reports that take weeks or months and thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars.
Can it be risky to make a change? It can certainly seem that way. Changing the way things are done always implies some level of risk. Yet, no one ever got better, no one ever made a breakthrough or got out in front of the pack by not taking a risk. Do you want to be a Fortune 500 company or a Fortune 1 company? Take the risk and see what happens.
What’s your data worth?
Forks in the Road
Entertainment is full of examples of technology gone wrong. Every dystopian sci-fi movie makes use of this to some degree. Either technology runs amok and enslaves humanity as in The Terminator or The Matrix, or we become so enamored of a technology we enslave ourselves to it as in Gattaca. In still others, technology becomes a tool that is used to suppress humanity, most famously in the novels 1984, Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451. And if we are honest, we can look to all of these examples and see parallels with technological development today.
That’s because there is no such thing as a free lunch. Everything comes with some sort of trade off or a dark side. It will always be possible to take an objective good and pervert it to something destructive. The very real life development of nuclear power is a poignant example. Nuclear power, even the old school, brute force fission reactors that are still the most common produce tens of thousands of megawatts of electricity every hour. And they do this with no carbon emissions on the production end. The only thing stopping them from producing more is their relatively small number, with fewer than a hundred operating in the United States.
However, with all that promise comes the proverbial dark side, which Hiroshima and Nagasaki experienced first-hand in 1945. While none have been used in war since then, the threat has loomed over the world like the Sword of Damocles. Trillions have been spent developing ever more powerful nuclear bombs and methods to deliver them. Trillions that could have been spent researching fusion reactors, an even more powerful energy source with a fraction of the radioactive waste of fission. Instead fusion research led to the hydrogen bomb, a type of nuke that makes Fat Man and Little Boy look like glorified fire crackers.
We stand at a similar technological fork in the road today. As our knowledge of genetics and our ability to manipulate them grows, we will be faced with difficult choices on how to use this technology. The same technology that could eliminate genetic predispositions to various diseases could also lead to triggering those dispositions in others. Slowing down or eliminating aging could create a world of selfish would-be immortals actively preventing the birth and development of future generations. The same technology that creates a new vaccine could create a new virus to unleash on an unsuspecting world.
Less dramatic is the idea that companies will simply use these advancements to control whole markets in new ways. Take the situation with genetically modified crops. While GMOs have been a great help in getting food to grow in environments that have typically been hostile, allowing more to be grown for and by those in challenging environments, there has also been a cost. Some, like Monsanto, control aspects of the GMO market with an iron grip. They do this either by engineering their seeds so they won’t germinate or in the case of a product that does, they have been known to sue farmers for their “intellectual property” because the GMO seeds germinated and spread into a neighboring field. That kind of action can kill a farmer’s business. In the case of the non-germinating seeds, a farmer is then forced to buy fresh seeds every year, instead of in the old days, growing this year’s crop from the last year’s seeds. That keeps prices artificially high and also puts farmers at risk should bad weather kill enough of their crop that they can’t afford to buy the new seeds.
The point is that we have to be very careful with how we use our technology. It can often be used to destroy rather than help others. Not only that, the destructive option is usually the easier one in the short term. Just look at fusion again. We built a bomb with it decades ago but we still haven’t figured out how to make a commercially viable fusion reactor.
Just as our choices with nuclear power defined much of the world for the latter half of the twentieth century, so our choices with genetic modification will define the world for what’s left of the twenty first. We must choose, and choose wisely.
What’s your data worth?
Rooting Around with Big Data
Time for TARTLE to deliver another good news shoutout. With so much bad news flying around on a constant basis, it’s good to take a moment every now and then to stop and appreciate the good that some people are trying to do.
Today’s shoutout goes to Siobhan Brady, a geneticist currently at the University of California. She began her research career investigating types of grasses that can actually absorb toxic heavy metals from the ground. Imagine being able to remove toxic metals and chemicals from the ground with something as simple as grass? If one could isolate the genes responsible, it would be a fairly simple matter to breed new species of grass that would be specialized to absorb even more. The grass could then be harvested and the concentrated chemicals within would be contained. This would make it possible to clean up industrial accidents, old manufacturing sites built before there were any kind of regulations, or even just the generic soil contamination that is found even in non-industrial areas like Alaska thanks to contaminants getting into the upper atmosphere and landing all over the world, reclaiming it all for nature, for housing or farmland.
Even with a greater focus on environmentally friendly energy such an advance would be important. Solar panels and batteries like those used in electric cars cause a large amount of heavy metal pollution. While that fact shows there are trade-offs and downsides to almost anything, metal absorbing grass would go a long way to mitigate that particular downside. Unfortunately, Brady was never able to isolate the particular genes needed to bring that goal to fruition.
Never one to stay down long, Siobhan did manage to learn how genes affect root propagation in these grasses, she also took her knowledge and growing expertise to Duke, continuing her efforts in root development. When that project eventually ran out of funding, the scientist adapted once again, this time applying herself to studying tomato and sorghum plants. The result is a paper awaiting publication that could pave the way to breeding plants that are better able to deal with harsh environments. That in itself could prove to be very useful as the environment continues to change, affecting where we can grow sufficient crops to feed the global population. If we can learn to grow them in cooler or warmer temperatures than is currently possible, that could greatly improve the overall food supply.
Academic and research setbacks are not the only troubles that Brady has experienced. In 2016 Siobhan was in Ethiopia for her research when anti-government protests broke out. Their car got caught in a riot and a rock struck and killed a colleague riding with her. While many would have given in either to anger or to despair and given up, Brady took a different route. With her colleague Sharon’s husband she started a fund dedicated to the educating and training of Ethiopian scientists, with a particular focus on training women.
Perhaps this, more than anything is what sets Siobhan Brady apart. When faced with death, hate, and adversity of many kinds, her response is never to give up. She adapts, she finds a new way to pursue the good, to help others. She gives of herself to help understand and improve our environment while improving educational opportunities for others, two of the TARTLE Big Seven. In short, this young scientist represents the best that humanity has to offer, seeking to elevate others. TARTLE recognizes this and so elevates her in the hopes that others will follow her excellent example and give back to the world for the good of us all.
What’s your data worth?
Data and Navigating the Unexpected
COVID came out of nowhere and upset the balance of pretty much everything. Back in February of 2019 things were proceeding normally, more or less. Then, countries around the world started locking down, one after the other. All of a sudden, people went from normal lives to in many cases not being allowed to leave their homes except to buy groceries once a week. While it never got that extreme in the United States, many businesses were curtailed, especially restaurants, theaters, and any other place where people would gather. That in turn had a significant effect on their suppliers. The net result has been a major shift in the global economy, the full effects of which likely won’t become fully apparent for years.
It’s no surprise that many businesses haven’t survived the turmoil. Tens of thousands have shut their doors for good. What is surprising is the number of businesses that have survived so far and those that have managed to thrive despite the unique circumstances that have been thrown at them. Those are businesses run by people who either already understood the importance of data or quickly learned to appreciate it. They were able to use technology and data to adapt to radically different circumstances.
Whether it be the restaurant that offered curbside pickup or outdoor seating, or the art instructor that added participation through Zoom as an option they’ve managed to turn those adverse circumstances into an opportunity.
Bigger businesses have naturally gotten involved as well. So much so that the executive position of Chief Data Officer (CDO) is becoming increasingly common. These executives have a difficult job not just in terms of organizing the acquisition and analysis of data but also in justifying the return on investment (ROI) that comes from all of that data. That last bit can of course be the most difficult because the benefits of all of that data are sometimes hard to quantify. Indeed, if not managed properly, there won’t actually be any benefits. How to navigate that particular minefield? The CDO of course needs to be able to show how the reach of their efforts is often greater than what is obvious. One successful interaction can lead to many more and it is the job of the CDO to make sure that the extended reach can be shown, to acquire that data and process it into a format that the other executives can readily grasp.
This is where issues often arise. Responding to the pressure that comes with that position can lead CDOs or whoever is in charge of the data to be tempted to get as much as they can, however they can. That can lead to all kinds of ethical issues in acquiring that data. We’ve seen a number of examples of that in this space over the last few months and there are many others. People are often tricked into giving up their data unwittingly or in other cases it’s just taken outright with no chance whatsoever for the individual to provide consent. It’s a kind of digital theft and it is a major problem for people’s rights around the world.
What should they do then? One option that we would obviously like to propose is that they sign up on TARTLE as a buyer. That way these businesses, large or small can connect directly with individuals who are using or might use their products and services. Then the CDO can be sure that they are getting their information with the consent of people which in turn ensures that it is more accurate than anything else that could be gathered through any other method. TARTLE also allows buyers access to something that no algorithm can possibly touch, the why. Why do people do the things they do? Why does one marketing campaign work while another doesn’t? Yes, we know companies learn these things through focus groups. But how much time does that take? Wouldn’t you rather get your information faster, almost in real time? I know I would. That’s what TARTLE offers, accurate, near real-time data that is gathered with the full consent of the individual. That’s a much better world, one that is responsive and honest.
What’s your data worth?
COVID, COVID, COVID. All the news these days seems to be about that little virus. If you like that kind of thing, then you’re in luck because we are here to talk about it today. More precisely, we’ll be talking about how governments are misusing the data they’ve been collecting due to the pandemic.
Back around a year ago as of this writing tech companies started to put out contact tracing apps that would allow whoever had access to it to let you know if you have been in proximity to someone with COVID. That way you could go get tested or isolate if you wanted to go that route instead. Sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? Thing is, it’s basically a tracking device that keeps tabs on where you are all day every day. They then can cross reference that data with your friends and family who are using that app and so determine who you talk to and what apps you use to do so. The government could even get a fairly good idea of the kind of things you are buying by determining which stores you walk into based on your location data.
The program was rolled out in Singapore and was held up by many as a model of how to respond not just in the case of COVID but for any future pandemic. However, that was before it was revealed that the government was very happy to use the data being gathered in ways that it wasn’t intended. This may have come as a surprise to some, after all, the government had promised that there would be ‘robust’ privacy protections in place. While many wisely doubted those promises and suspected or assumed that this was happening, it only became public knowledge in January when it came out that Singapore was using the contact tracing data in a murder investigation. Once again, a government promise was bunk and a program begun with good intentions was perverted from the original intent.
A natural response to this is ‘what’s the big deal?’ After all, do we not want murders solved using every tool possible? The problem isn’t really the use of the contact tracing data in the murder investigation, the issue is that this use is the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent. While the policy may currently be to only use the available data for serious crimes, how long before they use it for less serious crimes? Or for the ‘prevention’ of crimes? It’s easy to see how in the United States that kind of tracking data would get appropriated under the Patriot Act and used to arrest or harass people who haven’t actually done anything yet. Fears of exactly that sort of thing happening partially explains why contact tracing apps haven’t gained as much traction in America as they have in other places.
Hopefully it will stay that way. In Singapore, 78% of its citizens use the tracing app, which as we now know gives the government access to and control of their location data. That’s worrisome precisely because the government just takes it for granted that they can do this. Wouldn’t it be better if they at least had to ask?
How would that work? Very simple. If a crime were to occur and other evidence showed that you were at the scene or in contact with the criminal (security camera footage or witness testimony for example) the police could simply ask you for access to your phone because they think it would help. It really is pretty simple. Not only is it simple, it’s ethical because they are treating their citizens like individuals with rights and not subjects who must obey. It’s a big difference and one that TARTLE considers very important.
Abusing data in this way violates two of the big seven, human rights and government transparency. TARTLE will continue to work to improve this for as many people as much as we can. In doing so, we’ll never sell your data or so much as look at it. We are merely a tool for you to use, not the other way around.
What’s your data worth?
Apple and Transparency
Apple is no stranger to controversies around data. They’ve regularly been accused of collecting data and failing to announce it. They also have used their ubiquitous iPhones to track users wherever they may be. Despite the problems of the past, it would seem that Apple and their CEO Tm Cook are turning over a new leaf. How so? In a recent interview with Fast Company magazine, Cook put data privacy right below the climate as one of the major issues of the day. He went further and expressed concern that protections for end-to-end encryption were being weakened.
Apple’s end-to-end encryption for its users first became an issue following a shooting in San Bernardino a few years ago. The shooters were iPhone users and the FBI very much wanted Apple to unlock it for them so they could use the phone’s information to determine if the shooters were acting on their own or if they were part of a larger terrorist cell. Much to the surprise of many, Cook refused, even though the terrorists were already dead. The heir to Steve Job’s throne realized that as soon as they unlocked the phone, it would be easy to reverse engineer the process, opening up people to being spied on by the government.
Part of Apple’s latest data privacy initiative is the App Tracking Transparency feature of the next iOS update. One of the interesting aspects of this is that rather than feeding everyone a bunch of advertising based on the data gleaned from their apps, users will now be asked if they want to be tracked for advertising purposes. Finally, Apple customers will actually have a choice as to whether or not they want to be surveilled all the time. That in itself is borderline revolutionary and has no doubt upset a few people in the app store.
One of the big tech companies that isn’t happy about the change that Apple is making is Facebook. They actually expect their ad revenue from Apple to be cut in half as a result of that change. Given that their typical ad revenue is over $80 billion, we aren’t talking about chump change. Just think about that, Facebook is making $80 billion a year off of advertising to you on Apple products.
Now, is that the whole story? Probably not. Tim Cook is an intelligent individual and he very much understands the value of data. If anyone grasps the concept of data as the new gold, it would be him. After all, Apple has the most tight-knit ecosystem of hardware and software on the planet. Remember, the FBI wanted the San Bernardino terrorists’ iPhones because they knew how much data is in there. Just because Apple isn’t eager to share it with anyone else, whether it be the FBI or the makers of Candy Crush doesn’t mean they don’t know everything you do on their phones. They know where you are, what you’re buying, how many apps you have, which ones you use, etc. Remember, that new transparency feature just asks if you want to be tracked for advertising purposes. It doesn’t say anything about being tracked for any other reason. In short, that $40 billion that Facebook stands to lose isn’t really disappearing, it’s just going into Apple’s pocket instead.
Is this a cynical take? Maybe. However, it has been shown that Apple tracks your location even when they say they don’t. It’s also been proven that the tech giant plans obsolescence into their devices, making you much more likely to spend money on a new one sooner than you normally would. Especially given that you are already locked into their ecosystem.
In the end, despite Cook’s words, Apple’s actions at the end of the day still look like a company that is more about getting as much money as they can out of everyone rather than trying to help people first. Trust us, you can run a profitable company and still be people focused rather than dollar focused. Maybe you won’t be the most cash-rich company on the planet but you’ll still be a leader. The difference is you’ll be a leader in how you help people improve their lives rather than merely a leader piling up dollars in the back room.
What’s your data worth?