Abine, the online privacy company, started with the belief that people want, deserve, and will pay for the ability to control their data and digital identity online. Apple is starting to catch on (but not Google – and not yet Microsoft or Amazon). At Abine we believe both startups and large incumbent technology powerhouses will be competing on privacy: which companies can we the people trust with the increasing amount of data we all generate? The market for data is huge – $100bn or more – and the market to protect data will be similarly large. Apple will continue to profit and take market share from competitors if they further embrace privacy as a differentiator and follow in Abine’s footsteps.
Apple uses privacy as a competitive advantage
Tim Cook, Apple CEO, has stated: “Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers,” he wrote. “We don’t ‘monetize’ the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple.” What Cook is actually saying here is “Why trust Google?”.
At Abine, our millions of users are rarely well-versed in things like AES-256 encryption, but they understand when a company’s business model is based on “people / data about people being the product” – as in the case of Google – and when a company makes money in other clear and direct ways. This transparency is why tens of millions of people install Abine’s software: because we are a consumer privacy company with no other business model than privacy protection. Still, the #1 question our support team answers is, “how do you make money?”. The answer is simple: we make money when our users like our free software enough to pay for our premium features, like Masked Cards. Consumers don’t need the technical details, but they sure want the big picture in order to make an informed decision on who they can trust these days (hint: very few companies).
Is Apple doing the right thing with encryption in iOS8 (and how does Abine handle encryption)?
Apple is doing the fundamentally correct thing with iOS8 encryption – giving the keys back to the consumer. Simply put: Apple can’t help you if you forget your password anymore to get back any of your encrypted data – but they also can’t access it – even if compelled to do so by law enforcement. This is the right way to give consumers control. It’s absolutely how we operate with all of our users data at Abine (note: there is data required to perform some of our unique privacy services like masking emails, phones and credit cards).
There is one key difference between Apple encryption and Abine encryption and that is what happens in the cloud. Apple did not announce they were allowing users to keep their data encrypted in iCloud. At Abine, when users’ data is encrypted and synced on a server it remains encrypted with keys only the user possesses. Apple could have done this easily without extra work. They chose not to. They should rethink their decision for iOS 8.1.
So Apple is competing on privacy and is generally moving in the right direction with respect to consumer privacy. They are setting a bar for competition in doing so where companies ranging from Microsoft to Amazon to PayPal to Dropbox will need to respond. The good news is many of these companies can compete on privacy and regain consumer trust: they don’t rely on “monetizing big data.” For others like Google and Yahoo! and the entire ad-tech industry: watch-out, the bubble of big data and personalization profits is bursting.
A paradigm shift
As companies start to compete on privacy it will move from a cost of doing business to a way to dive profits. This is part of a real shift in how data is viewed. Despite ever-increasing spending by companies on security products, Home Depot, Target, and yes, even Apple iCloud continue to prove a simple point: no company can protect consumers’ personal data these days. The security model for the next decade will be giving the consumer control over her data, starting with her and her alone having the keys to unlock encrypted information – no matter where it is stored – phones, servers, laptops, or even wrist-watches.