Without the free rein they had a few years ago in terms of control over data, the big tech companies have long been working on the concept of ‘privacy’, which has also become a marketing tool. Apple has taken this dispute very seriously, and in early June introduced a new concept on privacy for the clients of its cloud service, iCloud. It’s called Private Relay.
Basically, this is a paid service that allows you to fully encrypt content while surfing on Safari, the Apple brand’s Internet browser.
Another new feature Apple has added is “Hide My Email”, or the possibility of using random emails with the domain i.cloud.com to avoid, at least in theory, that the email address ends up in unwanted hands. It could already be used to prevent the use of your personal email address when you log in to third-party websites, and now the functionality extends to sending emails.
Google also targets privacy
For its part, Google also raised the privacy flag when earlier this year it announced that, as of 2023, its Chrome browser, the most used in the world, will block all third party ‘cookies’, giving more privacy to the user’s browsing. It is a step that Firefox and Safari have already taken, and which creates serious difficulties for the data broker sector, who make money moving personal information from here to there.
That the big tech giants are taking privacy seriously – whatever their real motives – is good news. It shows, first, an increase in social sensitivity regarding privacy and the enormous power of data. And it opens the way for a new model that is more respectful of the digital consumer.
Therefore, from the point of view of protecting user privacy, these are steps in the right direction. But still, perhaps not all that glitters is gold. That’s because these moves, which are increasing, form a kind of bubble in which the user does have more control, but Apple and Google do, too. All other possible ‘players’ are kept out. The number of actors handling data will drop dramatically, but it could end up being only two or three large companies, operating as oligopolies. That is, a more unbalanced playing field, heading in the direction of a nearly impossible competition with the big tech companies.
Measures to fight against havoc in dealing with data are positive, but it is worrisome where the remedy is coming from.