An investigation in 2011 found that some apps could violate Apple’s GPS access rules. Until recently, app manufacturers were able to access users’ unique identification numbers without permission and thus keep track of the same users between different apps.
This unleashed powerful advertising techniques that have helped many small apps gain a foothold, but also created a gray market for smartphone usage data and enabled giants like Facebook to create detailed profiles of users’ interests and habits without their knowledge.
These practices also exacerbated compulsive smartphone use, as each new piece of information the apps gathered made it easier for them to engage users with personalized content.
For Barnard, Apple bears ultimate responsibility for all of this because it runs the App Store so closely. “Whether or not they are specifically blamed for the rise of these manipulative free-to-play games, they deliberately allowed it to happen by not changing the rules,” he says. ‘[But] You have a financial incentive not to stop the addiction. ‘
As the power of smartphones increased, society began to reshape itself around them. Gloria Mark points out how much of our phone use is reinforced or even mandated by social conventions, from expecting us to check email all day to the common practice of Googling to answer questions during a conversation.
We use GPS so much that we forget how to navigate; our phones are becoming security cards for our online services; we wait distractedly for elevators or buses or traffic lights.
Nowhere is this more evident than in China, Apple’s main manufacturing base and now its largest overseas market. “People born in 1980 had minimal contact with laptops,” says Francesca Yu of AppInChina, a Beijing-based company that helps app makers enter the Chinese market.
“You are not familiar with office software or Internet surfing … [now] Everything is done via an app or website, from buying train tickets to paying gas bills. We no longer leave the house with wallets, ID cards and keys; Instead, we just bring our smartphone and a power bank with us. ”Not just an iPhone, but iWorld.
In recent years, Apple seems to have gotten restless with its crown. After spending the last decade and a half making so many people so thoroughly dependent on its devices, it now faces perhaps an even greater challenge: taming the forces it releases.
It has sought to limit the power of app makers and presents itself as the guardian of the privacy and wellbeing of iPhone users. 2018 saw the introduction of Screen Time, which allows users to keep track of how long they’ve been using different apps, set time limits on each one, and schedule “downtime” when their phone gently prompts them to log out.
Focus was added earlier this year, which allows users to define different modes such as “Drive”, “Sleep” and “Work” with different notification settings and permissions for each.
On the data front, Apple finally allowed users not to share their unique tracking numbers with advertisers in 2016, and in April of that year it began forcing apps to ask permission before accessing it. According to analytics firm Flurry, only 23 percent of users who see such prompts actually agree.
Apple has also promised iCloud customers a virtual private network (VPN) called Private Relay, which hides their identity from websites they visit, and has released a one-way email service called Hide My Email.
Regardless, pressures from legal proceedings and angry developers have forced it to cut its small business fees, and Google has upped the ante by cutting all of its fees to 15 percent.
The new requests to pursue consent are already wreaking havoc on digital advertisers and are leading to an estimated 15 to 20 percent drop in sales for iPhones.
Shares in Facebook, Twitter, Google, and most importantly, Snapchat, have hit the mark as evidence of the impact, while Apple’s own advertising business – which is not affected – has captured a confident new market share.
Eric Seufert, an advertising expert who has written extensively on the crackdown, argues that it will only get large companies to collect more of their own data instead of getting it from others, which does little in the way of privacy benefits for users and gives Apple more control.
Mark Griffiths says that he is “very much in favor” of the new Screen Time and Notification Management tools as some of them have proven themselves in the UK gambling industry where they are mandatory.
He believes that smartphones should be subject to similar regulations. Larry Rosen is skeptical and bluntly calls Apple’s features “not good enough” because they offer too little data and are too easy to circumvent.
Two of his studies tested whether smartphone users can moderate their behavior with simple strategies; in both cases smartphone usage was actually higher after the interventions.
“Apple has a really good platform for making change; There are a lot of things they could do … but that’s their business model, “says Rosen.
“We have reached the point of this massive paradigm shift where something has to happen from above.” He would like a massive public information campaign similar to the one against cigarettes, but is not optimistic: “We’re just not even close to it… we’re not at our peak yet. We’re just getting out of hand all the time. ‘
Source: EMF Aware