Privacy: “The advertising industry can track us across all devices.


Mr. Al-Hames, in Silicon Valley, there seems to be just one more topic: privacy.

The corporations have realized that they can no longer avoid the topic of data protection. But most were pushed in that direction rather than voluntarily moving there. To put it bluntly: Facebook and Google do only what is absolutely necessary.

So it's just lip service?

Bad tongues would say that brushing lipstick on a pig. The promises should sound good, but do not take them seriously: both Google and Facebook live by collecting as much data as possible from users and selling it. They do not break their own business.

Who pushed the corporations – the users, the politics?

There is a group of users who have been calling attention to privacy for years. But politics in Europe has also recognized the issue and put in place good regulation. Now we experience how privacy is gradually becoming a mass movement. Nevertheless, I would not go so far that the majority of users fundamentally question the business model of Facebook and Google.

This is actually surprising after scandals like Cambridge Analytical.

I keep wondering why people are going to do it all. It is also a very abstract problem. Many believe they have nothing to hide until they see their own record. At the latest then one becomes aware that we are talking about a perfect recording of our life. Facebook, for example, has never understood privacy and does not understand it now.

How about Google?

Google has always had a core that cares about privacy. Over the years, however, the business side has gained the upper hand. Therefore, I think the promises are not credible here. It would break away a billion dollar business. Incidentally, Google has an unusual definition of privacy. The corporation wants to make sure that no one gets your data, except of course Google itself, because there the data are of course very well cared for. The company itself does not see itself as a infringer of privacy. That is absurd.

Google not only collects data using services like Gmail, Youtube or the Play Store, but also on the net.

Google sees 80 percent of everything you do on the net. Even if you consciously decide against services of the group, so do not use a Chrome browser, never do a Google search, watch no Youtube video and have no Gmail address. The group is the largest advertising tracker on the Internet!

What is recorded when I click through different websites?

Google sees which websites I visit and therefore knows whether I am informed about home buying, diseases or political parties. Individually considered, these data snippets do not say very much. But that changes when intelligent algorithms sort and systematically evaluate the data. Then they get comprehensive profiles about the users that are formed across multiple devices.

Read here: “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone,” promises Apple. Only: how is that supposed to work? The stern visited the ring-shaped headquarters and was the first German medium to take a look into two strictly shielded laboratories.

You are talking about fingerprinting.

With unique features such as screen resolutions and browser versions, the advertising industry is able to track us from smartphones to tablets to notebooks. Nothing escapes.

Apple has challenged this practice over the past year. Their Safari browser, however, has a relatively small market share.

Apple's market share is not that small, as you always think. The browser is preinstalled on every iPhone and iPad. Among the big players, Apple is definitely the one who takes privacy the most.

The group also has a completely different business model.

Apple earns selling products rather than using data and advertising. However, they are not perfect either. The biggest tradeoff is Google's default search on every Apple device. Every keystroke in the Safari browser is transferred to Google. Tim Cook knows that's not really okay. But people want the best search engine, and it's from Google. But the truth also includes: Google pays Apple a lot of money that they are preinstalled on any iPhone. The latest estimate was $ 9 billion a year.

Does Apple not collect any data?

Yes, of course. Without data, it is not possible today. But Apple takes a different approach: data is collected only earmarked, they are not shared and no profiles are formed.

What do you mean by earmarked data?

Let's take the two map services of the smartphone operating systems. Apple anonymizes the location data of users and prepares them technically so that they can be used for nothing else than to improve the map service. Google, on the other hand, uses the location data not only to optimize the map, but also to create more comprehensive profiles about the users and serve more appropriate advertising.

Many claim that Google's services are superior to Apple's because of the larger amount of data.

This is total nonsense. Technically, Google could build an equally good product while respecting privacy. Privacy and convenience are not mutually exclusive. It would only take longer and might be a bit more expensive and expensive. But then Google could not sell as accurate profiles to advertisers and endanger its most important business.

Google has now announced that it will also curb the fingerprinting practice in its Chrome browser. In addition, user data should get a sort of expiration date. How does it fit together?

At first glance this may sound outlandish, but this change in strategy will strengthen Google's advertising business. In addition, we go back to Google's definition of privacy: we may collect, but not others. Googles continues to learn a lot about its users with the Chrome browser, but all other advertising providers are blocked. By defining what data is allowed to be collected and what not, the group can easily get rid of unwelcome competitors. On the subject of expiration: I see no evidence that Google deletes data that is essential for the business.

Google has Android, the most popular smartphone operating system in the world, but plays only a tiny role in the smartphone sector. Samsung and Huawei sind the largest device smartphone maker, but reliant on Android. At Apple, hardware and software come from a single source. Is that an advantage from your point of view?

I think the software is more important, because with it you can control almost everything today. But by optimizing hardware and software, Apple can realize things that are hard to implement by software alone. It's a small competitive advantage. The Huawei case also shows that Android smartphone manufacturers must not only submit to rules dictated by Google itself, but also by government regulators who have a close eye on Android as an instrument of market power.

Does that mean, conversely, that you can not get around an iPhone if you value its privacy?

No. You can just as well buy an Android phone. But you'll have to invest an hour to disable Google services and install some tools to make your phone safer. However, with the iPhone, many privacy features are already preset.

Anyway, when I open an app, things are different anyway. Everyone knows the pop-up windows asking for access to the contacts, the location data or the microphone. How much control do Google and Apple have?

You should only install those apps that you trust. Always look at the business model: Do you pay for the app or is it free? If it's free, you should ask yourself how the providers make money. Most of the time you pay in the form of your data. The platform operators – in this case, Apple and Google – have to be more transparent in my opinion.

Many politicians are calling for the app stores to be sealed off from companies. Do you think that's a good idea?

It's all about abolishing monopolies by allowing more app stores. Currently, there is only one platform per operating system. I think there should be more competition.

Why do we need alternative software stores? In the preinstalled, there are already millions of apps. And with an outside vendor, there's also the risk of downloading potentially harmful software.

That's true. But then I still have a choice as a user. There have been one or two cases where it could be argued that there was an actual threat to users or more of a threat to the store's business. In my opinion, users should always have the freedom to install apps on their own responsibility. Otherwise there is a danger of censorship.

So you do not believe that people should be protected from their own ignorance? This is currently the common practice in which Apple and Google control each app very strictly.

Just because the users have no alternative, nothing is questioned. If there were alternatives, it would look different: If Apple banned an app for privacy reasons from the App Store, you could download it somewhere else. But everyone would ask themselves three times why it was banned at all.

They are very optimistic. According to surveys, most users do not read terms and conditions and agree to all requests.

There is an App Store on the iPhone and another on Android, which is the reality for 99 percent of people. They do not know how decisions are made there. And that's why they just hit the OK button on all messages because they know that they have no alternative anyway.

There is a powerlessness among the users?

Most think their data is already everywhere anyway. In the end it is not the task of the user to change the practice of the corporations. Here is the policy required. It is socially unacceptable that commercial companies spy on and record our entire lives – that's where politicians have to intervene.

If the mass invasion of privacy were slowed down by law, would not software like Cliqz be superfluous?

We earn our money by giving people back their privacy. But I think even in a highly regulated world, there are still good business models for clean-working companies. The fact that the seat belt was mandatory in the car, yes, not even the security industry in the car is extinct. But on the contrary.

So you are not worried about your job?

I think in twenty years the world will look completely different. Then people will look back to today and laugh at how naive we all were. However, I think it has to get worse before it gets better. For the next three to five years I see no change. The comfort people have outweighs the sensation of pain by far.

More about privacy in the current star


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