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Apple ‘fires shot’ at Facebook during its big streaming event

JP Mangalindan
Chief Tech Correspondent

Hollywood celebrities such as Oprah, Reese Withersoon, and Jennifer Aniston stole the show at Apple’s (AAPL) star-studded gathering announcing its new streaming service on Monday, so much so, it was easy to overlook one of the event’s main themes: privacy.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, says farewell at the end of an Apple special event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, U.S., March 25, 2019. REUTERS/Stephen Lam

The Cupertino, California, tech giant emphasized user privacy time and again at Monday’s company event as it trotted out other new services including Apple News +, its long-awaited paid news subscription service granting access to over 300 North American publications, and Apple Arcade, a monthly games subscription service with 100-plus titles due out this fall.

“What you read about in Apple News + will not follow you across the web," said Roger Rosner, vice president of Applications at Apple at the Cupertino event, adding that Apple won’t know what users are reading.

Apple also emphasized the company would not know which games Apple Arcade players are playing when Apple Arcade eventually launches this fall.

Daniel Ives, managing director of equity research for Wedbush Securities, contends these latest privacy moves may be largely driven by Cook himself.

“This is a shot across the bow at Facebook,” Ives explained. “What Apple is trying to say is, this is a trustworthy, family-friendly platform. Trust the Apple brand and our 1.4 billion [mobile] devices. They’re trying to put themselves on the other end of the spectrum versus the likes of Zuckerberg and Facebook.”

Credit: David Foster/Yahoo Finance

Over the last 12 months, Facebook (FB) and Google (GOOGGOOGL) have come under fire for scandals underscoring the fact their businesses and services are based around mining user content and data. Facebook has yet to fully recover from a series of back-to-back scandals, including last March’s Cambridge Analytica controversy, which revealed the user data of up to 80 million Facebook users was harvested by voter profiling firm Cambridge Analytica. Google, meanwhile, shuttered its floundering Google+ social network after a glitch exposed the data of nearly 52 million users to third-party app developers.

In the weeks and months following Cambridge Analytica, Cook and Apple emphasized privacy in an apparent attempt to distinguish Apple from other tech giants. Cook has sharply criticized the social network during press interviews. He also reiterated his commitment to privacy during a commencement speech last May for Duke University’s graduating class. And ahead of CES this January, Apple even went so far as to plaster the side of a building with a privacy ad declaring, “What happens on your iPhone stays on your iPhone.”

“We reject the notion that getting the most out of technology means trading away your right to privacy, so we choose a different path: collecting as little of your data as possible, and being thoughtful and respectful when it’s in our care, because we know it belongs to you,” Cook said during his commencement speech last May.

Apple’s outward push for privacy is in line with the company’s culture, which has always prized secrecy within its walls, particularly when it comes to the development of new products and services.

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