Discussing Apple’s Safari Update and its Privacy Implications

Apple’s latest Safari 11 update is bringing in a new wave of privacy discussion to the ad-tech industry. This update imposes Apple’s cookie standards across the board – in addition to blocking all third-party cookies, first-party cookies will be blocked or purged from users’ browsers (without notice) as well.

Right behind this announcement is the 2018 deadline of the EU General Data Protection Regulations. The impact of this law includes revised definitions of personal data to include any information relating to an individual, whether it relates to his or her private, professional or public life. Personal data would include a name, a postal address, a photo, an email address, bank details, posts on social networking websites, cookies and locations. The key statute and concern, however, is it would essentially require opt-in before any data can be used for targeting. A core focus of EU regulators has been to find a way to turn this law into a money maker. Any data collection of personal data by EU organizations or any other organization (especially Google and Facebook) will result in a 4% tax on all worldwide revenues.

The challenge presented by the Apple update and the new EU Data Protection Law involves how we address consumer consent. Both require marketers to ask for consent to use any information that, up until now, has been the fundamental driver of both offline and online commerce.

The issue worthy of debate is no longer whether consumers are losing control of their personal data. The question is – whether the tactics of Apple and these EU relators are actually addressing any known privacy problem?

Well-intentioned industry interest groups, hundreds of digital agencies, and thousands of corporate compliance officers have worked hard over the last five years to define standards for the protection of personal data and online privacy.

The question to ask is – could the purpose of these actions by Apple and the EU have a different motivation?

Could the threat of a mandatory opt-in requirement simply be part of a populist push by lawmakers to find a way to capitalize on the explosion in online commerce? Are they just wielding the sword of populism to leverage their way into a new tax base to replace what they stand to lose as EU consumers migrate from Harrod’s to Amazon?

How does turning off the collection of all first- and third-party information occurring on your iPhone help the consumer? It is clearly a PR win for Apple while directly adding to the cost of sales for online retailers, healthcare providers, and financial institutions. Privacy attorneys would classify these first-party relationships as “vendors with permissible purpose.” And while Apple is busy taking bows for their noble gesture of protecting consumers from themselves – let’s not forget that Apple still knows who you are, what sites you visit and where you shop – both online and offline. All of this information remains relevant to the folks at Apple Pay, Apple Store, iTunes, etc.

The bottom line is let’s be certain that if we are going to wield the “pet rock of privacy” on behalf of the consumer, let’s be sure the outcome represents a benefit to the consumer. Let’s be sure the populist cause isn’t just a bait and switch.

Consumers have been receiving postal direct mail from the local big box store for years. They get fundraising phone calls from candidates for office every two years. They get credit card offers and home loan promotions from the local bank in between innings on the local cable station. Codes of conduct, and opt-out regulations such as “do not call” already provide choices that give the consumer the ability to opt-out whenever those phone calls from the police benevolent society or pop-ups for reverse mortgages are simply too much.

Economics and historical precedent show us that there is very little chance that consumers are going to be better off financially or be better protected because you take away their choice.

If you’re interested in effective targeted marketing that adheres to privacy standards and regulations, contact Semcasting today.

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