Apple’s Jane Horvath on Privacy

Jane Horvath, Apple’s chief privacy officer, as quoted by Claire Stern in Elle:

[…] So every day you hear or read about different incursions … advertising is big right now, and I think people would be quite surprised by the amount of data that exists out there in the B2B world about them. That’s something that we’re very much trying to bring to the attention of our customers, not because we want them to make a choice one way or the other, but because we actually want them to be aware of it.

Apple executives are media trained and it is rare for them to stray off-message; this interview with Horvath is not an exception. But I thought this segment was notable for its shift in perspective. Much has been written about the effects of Apple’s recent privacy efforts, such as App Tracking Transparency, from the effects they have on advertisers.

But perhaps not enough attention has been directed toward the insidious data enrichment industry powering business-to-business (B2B) tools. Plenty of software packages for businesses can automatically extrapolate an entire persona from nothing more than an email address or a phone number. Many of them can associate personal and professional identities, therefore erasing any line between the two, and establish a more comprehensive picture of a business’ internal matters. It sounds invasive to normal people, but all of this has been normalized in the business-to-business software world.

Horvath and Apple may be worried about how their devices and software feed this industry, but this is not something that can be restrained by a single company, no matter how large it is. Careful regulation is the only viable path for curtailing these ridiculous privacy abuses.