Chris Barnard explores Apple’s diminished authority when it talks ‘privacy & security’, celebrates unreservedly at the news of the death of iTunes and barely scrapes the surface of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde attitudes and behaviours the tech giants have towards anti-competition and consumer choice.
Having been an iPhone user from the 3+ onwards, nothing was quite as terrifying as that moment you had desperately been trying to put off. You’d attempted everything …but you knew now that the only way to fix your bugged out Apple tech was to fire up the laptop and submit to vassalisation by iTunes. Friends, Mac users, Vegans… lend me your ears.
One of my worst early tech experiences was when I first moved to an iPhone and how alarmed I became at its insistence that iTunes stored (or at least attempted to store with varying success rates) everything behind its myriad and maze-like interface. Those multiple, endless navigation menus and barely visible font-sizes on a full window application. Far from a breakthrough in design, more a truly excruciating piece of software to navigate. I wonder if the rose-tinted nostalgia sets in overtime, perhaps these quirks will be viewed as its most endearing features, so few would be the positives to choose from.
My relationship, such as it was with iTunes, hinged around the following experience 99% of the time.
*Plugs phone into PC. Asked ‘would I like to open in iTunes. Reluctantly submit.*
*Six minutes of loading time later*
Me: ‘FINALLY. None of your games iTunes. All I want to do, is download this one photo from my phone and send it to my mum’
iTunes: oh, hey Chris, where’ve you been… I can see you’ve not plugged in in a while…what music you want to listen too? You wouldn’t have been listening to your music, elsewhere would you? I’ve not seen your iPod online for a while …
ITunes: ‘did you know you’ve not backed up your phone in a month’
Me: Err… it’s 2am, I just want to…
ITunes: ‘are you aware your software version is out of date…’
Me: where’s the god damn navigation to show me my phone pictures
iTunes: I’ll just set this time and date for an update; or we could do it now?
Me: fine, fine, get on with it!
iTunes: great, we’ll just scan your hard drive, import any media files we find and add that to iTunes…
iTunes: oh … you don’t mind a restart, do you?
*closes laptop* – I’ll just print it out and take it to her
Never a fan of iTunes. It always felt unnecessarily needy, bloaty and made simple tasks a voyage of user interface discovery. It had more items on the menu than a Wetherspoons. Its load time was comparable to the communal kettle at university that saw all manner of hardships.
Far from being a hipster early adopter of something more fangle-dangled in the early noughties, I’d grown to enjoy the simplicity of storing my music on an external hard drive combined with the limited functions of that Luddite champion, Windows Media Player. After all, it had that Wizzy music visualisation element that would fascinate by turning your beats into colours! WMP was like that friend who you enjoy the company of from time to time, not because they are particularly exciting, but because they bring no drama to your table.
A cause for popping the champers then to the news that iTunes will be carved up and fed to the mincing machine at the tender age of 18, a grandfather in tech timelines, yet just a relic on the ramparts of the irrepressible march towards the digitisation of life. Roll out the bugelist, let the herald know and tell the obituarist his services will not be required on this occasion.
So, what now, dear Apple? You have accepted the feedback on iTunes into your hearts and will split it into multiple single function services. It would be remiss of you not to address the great awakening to privacy matters in the light of scandals at Facebook & Google? Oh, that’s your next announcement, I should have guessed. Can you really call yourself a big tech company without oodles of spin about just how YOU’RE the company making your consumers safer in the modern age? I argue it’s not the dawn of the new age of privacy they’d like to declare it as.
One might say that the surety of a dishonest business, is that it is dishonest with everyone. Sign-in with Apple…we are assured ‘limits advertisers access to customer data’. For now at least, until those big advertising deals come knocking on the Tim Cook door. The ambiguous ‘random key’ for developers sounds more like a profit lock-in for Apple, a further beating for software stretched developers rather than a genuine attempt at promoting privacy of users. Apple have always maintained an unhealthy approach to app developers, preferring a lock and key servitude type model to keep workers inline.
Perhaps previous good character can intervene here to support their credibility? A quick scan of CVE vulnerabilities should put the matter straight. Apple are notorious for a wide-eyed, foot-dragging approach to security vulnerabilities in days past. Just the 1,651 according to the Security Vulnerability Database.
I’m sure safety was the primary reasoning as to why your chargers cost £30 and subsequently why I must hot-wire a hodgepodge of non-Apple imitation chargers to get some juice into my rapidly diminishing apple products over the years. I’ll give you some accessory is not supported.
Yet where do we look for a demonstration of good privacy practice? Facebook are talking a closed social network, how this connects true to their previous, increasingly less mentioned ambiguity of ‘connecting the world’ would rightly leave you scratching your head. Forgive me, but it wouldn’t seem the brand responsible for insidiously influencing votes and elections should be remotely near a front-runner in the great debate on privacy. Particularly when Mark Zuckerberg continues to declare what he believes the rules should be, like a t-shirt clad Sauron.
New ambitions seem to be the modus operandi, as Google distances itself further from a ‘do no evil’ mantra as it finds itself in an eternal game of not telling the truth on anti-trust and anti-competition lawsuits brought against it. The examples are now far too numerous to give them justice in a simple post, but if you’ve been watching what they’ve been doing in the verticals of jobs, transport and accommodation you will be left swiftly in no doubt. The denials have not been plausible for years now. We shall cover that another day dear reader. The regulatory woes will not end anytime soon either, as it looks increasingly impossible for these businesses to argue they’re not stifling competition as their strategy requires it and their tactics increasingly sets this goal above all others.
My fear at this point, is that we have reached a point where the tech giants (and politicians it could be said) know you’re not really paying attention and now turn the weapon once used on them, a very poor approach to privacy and data collection, and use it as a cloak to cover whatever nefarious goal they want to achieve next, I’m leaning towards the Silicon favourites of more profits, more dividends, and less competition.
Chris Barnard is Managing Director of FeedbackFans.com. Feedback Fans is part of a collective of global technology companies working towards a common goal of improving experiences that include: retail, leisure, finance, education, gaming and business services. By developing unique state of the art solutions and environments, and combining this with strategic execution, we ensure our clients and users prosper in the digital age.