There’s little doubt that Apple considers its stance on user privacy to be one of its most competitive features, especially when stacked up against Google’s data-monetization strategies and Facebook’s outright blunders. Apple has said time and time again that it’s not concerned about your data — it just wants to sell you its products and services, and for its purposes, building user trust is even more important than simply placing a feature in its cap.
That said, however, Apple isn’t shy about reminding customers that its devices keep user data far more private than the competition, as demonstrated by its latest clever marketing campaign seen on billboards in Toronto.
To be fair, the campaign itself isn’t new — we saw some of the first ads at CES back in January — but Apple has done a really clever job of tailoring the billboards for each location where they’re posted. The CES billboard, touting that “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone” was a very obvious play on the classic Las Vegas catchphrase, which is the city where CES is hosted, of course.
Now, two new billboards in Toronto spotted by users on Twitter are following a similarly clever play on words, with one, which says “Privacy is King” appearing on Toronto’s downtown King Street.
Another, however, is a much more blatant jab at Google, appearing right outside of its sister company’s Sidewalk Labs’ Toronto headquarters, proudly stating that “We’re in the business of staying out of yours.”
Sidewalk Labs is part of the Google conglomerate, under the same parent company, Alphabet, and has been working on an urban development initiative on Toronto’s waterfront for a couple of years now, proposing to use it as a testing bed for a city of the future. However, the fact that Sidewalk Labs is affiliated with Google has made many Toronto officials, privacy experts, and other industry analysts nervous as they envision a futuristic city built on “surveillance capitalism” with sensors tracking and recording massive amounts of data from everyone who lives in, works in, or visits the neighbourhood.
In fact, there has been no small amount of controversy around the project, with advisor panel members resigning over profound privacy concerns, including the former privacy commissioner for the Ontario Provincial government. While Sidewalk Labs has admitted that it would be collecting data from residents of the new smart neighbourhood, and promised that it would strip that data of personal identifiers, it was unable to guarantee that other groups it would be sharing the data with would do the same. For its part, Sidewalk Labs says it doesn’t actively work with Google, but that doesn’t mean that the company doesn’t have its own data-mining policies and associated privacy flaws.
With all of the uncertainty and doubt surrounding the Google-affiliated initiative, it’s fairly easy to see how Sidewalk’s proposed “surveillance neighbourhood” would be an ideal place for Apple to take a not-so-subtle poke at Google and its entire Alphabet conglomerate by pointing out its own business policies as a stark contrast to what many fear the Google empire is fast becoming.