Apple vs. Android: Pick Based on How Much You Value Privacy

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Woman using mobile overlooked by wall graffiti
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This past week at the annual Google (GOOG) I/O conference it was disclosed that there are almost a billion users on the Android operating system. By comparison, Apple (AAPL) recently announced that it has sold more than 800 million devices equipped with its iOS operating system, though there might be more active users.

If you are one of these people beholden to Google or Apple for your smartphone, tablet or laptop's operating system, you need to ask yourself as an informed consumer this question: How much are you willing to trade for access to your personal information? The answer will determine which tech giant you align yourself with.

Apple's Closed System

Apple prides itself in producing high-end devices with a closed operating system. You pay up for its products, and you are assured a certain level of privacy.

The company put its money where its idealistic mouth is with the recent update to the iOS 8 mobile operating system which makes Mac addresses private on mobile devices. This makes it impossible for retailers to identify people via Wi-Fi from their iPhone, something previously done on a regular basis, without your knowledge, whenever you entered many stores.

This move follows a previous decision not to allow cookies -- the supposedly anonymous programs that track your browsing history –- as the default option for the Safari browser in the iOS and OS X devices.

Apple has the luxury of doing this because it makes money the old-school way -- by selling products and a lot of them. Between computers, phones, music, TV shows and movies, Apple has sold more than $171 billion of real stuff over the last year.

Google Wants to Optimize Ads, Ads and More Ads

Google, on the other hand, is in the business of selling ads. Ads need your personal data to optimize and target them –-allowing Google to charge the highest ad rates. To do this, Google offers almost all its core products for free" Google Search, Gmail, Google+, Google Maps, Chrome and You Tube. And the Android system itself is open source, available for independent developers to build upon.

But as they say, there is no such thing as a free lunch. The price you pay for paying no price with Google products is that it is free to take your personal data, preferences and browsing habits and give them to advertisers to target you.

If you don't believe me, try this for an experiment. Send a few emails to your friends through Gmail talking about how much you would like to learn to bowl. Within a few days to a week, you will start seeing the ads that populate the right-hand side of your Gmail screen miraculously coming up with discounts to your local bowling alley or courses on improving your game.

Type "vacation cruise" into Google search on your Chrome browser, and you will find digital ads for Carnival (CCL) and Princess Cruise lines following you across all the web pages you visit.

Even Google glasses are designed to accumulate data on the user's habit and feed it upstream to Google's servers.

Differing Revenue Models

To be fair, Apple tracks customers in its own stores and in select retailers with iBeacon via a phone's Bluetooth connection, but the customer has to opt in through an iBeacon app first. In addition, the technology is designed more to alert consumers of sale items and offers in the immediate vicinity they are shopping in, opposed to tracking their info and data for ad-related revenue.

In today's technological age, it would not only be naive but irresponsible to frame Apple and Google in terms of good or bad companies. However, it is important for consumers to understand the difference between the two -– in terms of how their business and revenue models work -– to make an intelligent and informed decision on which to patronize based upon how much you value your privacy.

Brian Lund's blog offers more on personal finance, the stock market, investing and the secret to eternal life.

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9 Comments

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tim

Both Android and Apple have excellent products, but If you value privacy you probably shouldn't be buying Apple. Imagine shopping at your mall. Go into your favorite store to buy something. The independent shop keeper tells you your credit card transaction has to be sent to the mall owner for them to approve and process. You can not buy directly from him or her. So you shop at 10 stores in the mall and all you personal private data including everything you buy goes to the mall's massive data base. This is what Apple does every day. You can not purchase anything with Apple's Apps without Apple knowing every single detail of what you buy. Why? because Apple doesn't allow you to buy anything inside of an App without their knowledge. They have to be involved in all your personal credit card transactions. All your personal private App data is processed only through iTunes. This is real privacy invasion. iAd Precision ad targeting...they know your lifestyle, they know your purchase habits, etc.

All web pages have Ad's even Brian Lung's web page. If you click on one of his blogs you may notice that you get Ad's related to his topics or finance. You go to a ball game and you you see ads related to what these people might like. You go to a car race and you see ads related to what these people might like. You type or go to a vacation site and you see ads related to vacations. The vacation Ad company does NOT get your name, your home address, your email address, your phone number or any personal information. No real privacy has been invaded.

Also Apple was allowing 3rd party App vendors without your knowledge to download and copy your complete contact book to their 3rd party locations. This included names, phone numbers, street addresses, emails address, etc. - Apps in general are less private then just using a browser. - Google refuses to comply with China's laws to invade peoples privacy. Apple complies with all of China's laws. - Google encrypts you personal data so the US government or others can't invade your privacy.

July 01 2014 at 4:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Albert Pike

I hate smart cell phones for many reasons... First off, people are always playing with them instead of doing their jobs. Next, people are always ducking out of social settings and ruining parties to play with them. Third, they are a total scam to suck money out of weak people. Fourth, the state and federal taxes are like 15 to 20% per user. Fifth, idiots are always holding them up and blocking my view at places like my kid's schools or graduation ceremonies. Sixth, the government tracks me and can listen in to what is going on by flipping a switch. Seventh, idiots play with the things while they are in their cars and sit at stop signs for 5 minutes for no reason except they are too stupid to drive and talk at the same time. Eighth, Deluded fools think those phones make them cool or something and they always try to show off the latest ap, like a screen that looks like a mustache or something stupid like that. I have a tracphone.. I pay 7 cents per minute and I only use the thing in case I find myself needing to make a emergency phone call away from home.. If there was still a vast network of payphones on every corner like the old days, I wouldn't even have the tracphone. People get these stupid cell phones an pay $50 a month for the things and they wonder why they are broke. I saw a broke loser walking up to a bus the other day playing with their cell phone and I thought what an idiot. Lose the cell phone and pocket the cash..

July 01 2014 at 1:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Albert Pike's comment
drpmindmender

HEAR, HEAR! I too only have a Tracfone to make PHONE CALLS, and for NO other reason.. I once watched a woman , in a nearly empty parking lot, walk into the side of a bright red, full-psized SUV that wasn't moving or occupied, because she was too busy texting.

Life is NOT just what's on a 3"-5" screen. WAKE UP PEOPLE!

July 01 2014 at 12:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
demarketer

Yes...and we all used to live in caves, walk everywhere, and hunt our own food. Aren't you the intelligent one for living in the past and foregoing this foolish technology. I only hope that you use a good hand sanitizer after using the outhouse. You hit it right on the money, the people who use smartphones are truly "idiots," "deluded," and "stupid." Or, maybe, like any sort of progress, society needs to grow with it a bit in order to adopt some acceptable social norms (like not blocking the view of your kids graduation or using them in a way that's disturbing to others). You, sir, are the intelligent one...and extremely articulate.

July 09 2014 at 3:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
freeetob

My objection to Apple is, like Sony, it is proprietary. Users are locked into buying their higher priced gadgets and gizmos that are only compatible with Apple (or Sony).

June 30 2014 at 7:12 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
dfoster

Does Brian work for Apple? Sounds like it.

June 30 2014 at 6:53 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
MR weaver king

apple sucks but google watches everything and sells your info , so whats better?

June 30 2014 at 6:50 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to MR weaver king's comment
I Made This

yes, so right. I think everyone knew this stuff already, and were looking for the alternative to these, but nope... no advise.

July 01 2014 at 8:52 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Angela

This is a bit simplistic, in pitting one against the other. For example, I am typing this on a Mac. But because I use Google as my search engine, I am followed by those ads you mentioned. So it's not just down to which OS you are using, but also how you are using it.

June 30 2014 at 5:38 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply