News that Apple punished Facebook for violating its privacy rules is the topic of a Kevin Roose column in the New York Times:
Mr. Cook, who has called privacy a "fundamental human right" and taken Facebook and Google to task for the misuse of user data in the past, could effectively become a technology regulator of last resort — using the power of Apple's iOS operating system as a cudgel to force software companies to respect user privacy and play by the rules, or risk losing access to millions of iPhone users....
While [government] regulators have fined Facebook for privacy violations, those punishments rarely amount to anything truly meaningful — at most, the company pays a few million dollars, promises to do better next time, and goes right back to work....Apple's defense of user privacy, while certainly self-interested, is a boon to its users and a lever for change within the tech industry.
If customers are genuinely concerned about privacy, eventually tech companies will start competing for customer loyalty on the basis of who is best at protecting privacy! After all, these companies make their money by making their customers happy. This is especially so for Apple, which makes money by selling customers $1,000 iPhones, unlike Facebook, whose app is free to users and which makes money by selling advertisers access to users and, in some sense, their data.
Apple, Facebook, and regulation were the topics of a column I wrote in April of last year that touched on some of these issues:
The reason Facebook is worth hundreds of billions of dollars is that the personal data users provide makes it an incredibly efficient way for businesses to reach potential customers.
My Sunday print newspaper is full of ads for things I don't want to buy. I'm a Jew with no pets, but the supermarket ads are featuring Easter ham and the pet food companies are sending me dog-food coupons. That's wasteful.
The first ad in my Facebook feed, though, is for Brooks Brothers dress shirts that I've ordered in the past and conceivably might want to buy again. That personalization is valuable to the ad buyers, who are no longer spending money advertising things to me that I am not going to buy. It's also valuable to me, because I have to spend less time flipping, or clicking, through irrelevant ads.
If Apple could make my iPhone free, instead of $1,000, by showing me well-targeted ads, that's a deal I might take.