Apple’s iPhone Privacy Ad Shows Greedy Bidders Auctioning for your Data

Posted on May 19, 2022 by Laurent Giret in Apple, Mobile, iOS with 28 Comments

Apple published yesterday a new “Privacy on iPhone” ad that takes a not so subtle shot at the ruthless practices of advertisers, who may see your smartphone as nothing less than a modern-day goldmine. This ad is quite reminiscent of Microsoft’s infamous “Scroogled” ad campaign from the Ballmer era, though Apple didn’t go as low and name its competitors directly.

The ad starts with a young woman visiting a record store before being attracted by the noise of a nearby auction sale for her own personal data. Once she enters the room, the woman saws bidders auctioning for her emails, recent transactions, browsing history, location, contacts, etc. “It’s not creepy, it’s commerce,” the enthusiastic auctioneer shouts in the room unapologetically.

But here comes your knight in shining armor: As excitement grows in the room, the young woman pulls her iPhone out of her pocket and turns on the iOS App Tracking Transparency feature, which prevents iOS apps from tracking her activities across other companies’ apps and websites. As the greedy bidders in the room start evaporating one by one, the young woman delivers the coup de grâce by turning on Mail Privacy Protection on her iPhone, which clears the room of the remaining data brokers.

The ad ends with a very serious message: “It’s your data. iPhone helps keep it that way.” Apple has been touting its “Privacy by design” approach for many years now, and features like App Tracking Transparency will reportedly cost Facebook $10 billion in revenue in 2022. The feature has apparently inspired Google to launch its Privacy Sandbox, which is still in development for the web and mobile devices.

Apple is blocking all comments on its YouTube channel, and now that Google hides dislikes on YouTube, it’s pretty hard to judge the overall sentiment regarding this ad. But overall, this is probably the most impactful ad Apple released since its “What’s a computer” iPad Pro ad from 2018, which tried (and failed?) to make the “post-PC” world imagined by Steve Jobs many years ago a reality.

What do you think of this latest ad from Apple? Whether you’re using an iPhone or not, let us know what you think in the comments below.

Tagged with , ,

Join the discussion!


Don't have a login but want to join the conversation? Become a Thurrott Premium or Basic User to participate

Comments (28)

28 responses to “Apple’s iPhone Privacy Ad Shows Greedy Bidders Auctioning for your Data”

  1. spiderman2

    they forgot to put this:

    *except on itunes, icloud, siri and most of the apple services

    • bluvg

      Um, yeah, we do go through your photos, but... er, um, that's different...

    • jchampeau

      You're saying Apple sells the data it collects about its users of iTunes, iCloud, and Siri to advertisers? I don't think they do.

      • Donte

        Go to YouTube, search on this...

        "The Hated One Apple Is Terrible for Your Privacy"

        Watch, learn.

      • bluvg

        I think the issue is that they're promoting "privacy on iPhone," but the only privacy scenario they're pointing out here is selling of data. If the ad were "we don't sell your data," it would be fine, but "privacy on iPhone" should have a big * by it.

        • anoldamigauser

          Every company is tracking us in one way or another, the difference is in how they make their money; always follow the money. Apple makes their money, for the most part, selling shiny new things. Microsoft makes its money selling software subscriptions and cloud services. Google makes its money selling ads; the consumer is Google's product, not its customers. Add to that, the fact that Google and Amazon use the data they collect to look for new businesses to enter, in many cases competing against other companies that actually are their customers.

          • bluvg

            Perhaps yes, yet there's a "but everyone else is doing it!" element to that argument that some, not all, accept. Not everyone is fine with a privacy that extends only so far as it isn't used for profit. Quite a number of people are not ok with Apple accessing personal photos, regardless whether it's used to benefit Apple financially, and would not consider that "privacy."

            • Jeffsters

              Apple DOES NOT access your photos. They did announce support for CSAM (child exploitation) imagery, hence delayed, where the system does not scan a user’s photos, but instead looks for known digital “fingerprints” that it matches against the CSAM database. If the system detects enough images on a user’s account, it is then flagged to a human monitor who can confirm the imagery and pass the information along to law enforcement if necessary. Is this a concern for you?

              • ivarh

                Yes, it is a problem for me. Apple like all other companies have to follow the laws in the countries they operate in and if Apple provides this feature there is no way for you as the end user to validate that the hashes that gets transferred to your machine for local matching are of child pronografi material and not for example of pictures of other things that your local government finds questionable. all you and apple would see is another hash value that don't tell you or apple anything.

                Its like when apple did not want to build a version of ios that would disable the countdown to data erasuse when invalid pins were used by FBI to open a phone. Here apple say they will add the capability for your machine to spy on you. The fact that there is no way for me to verify what they are looking for is what makes this a no go for me.

  2. ghostrider

    I'm just waiting for this to backfire big time on Apple. They're putting so much emphasis on security now as a way to win sales that it comes across as a little hypocritical, especially when Apple collect as much if not more data than anyone else. We assyme they don't sell this (anonymized) data, but it's used to create some very detailed user profiles which Apple themselves hold and I'm sure use for various 'unspecified' reasons. Apple also reserve the right to use your data held by them in any way they see fit.

    • Jeffsters

      You have NO IDEA what Apple does or doesn’t do. NONE! As for them using data, no idea how anyone else feels, but I expect and I’m fine with, a provider using my data to enhance my experience. Apple should release products I love to use, NetFlix should release more content I want to watch, Walmart should stock more items that relate to my needs. My issue is when it’s sold and combined to create a huge non-regulated nor known profile that’s sold to others I have no relationship with.

    • Stabitha.Christie

      "but it's used to create some very detailed user profiles which Apple themselves hold and I'm sure use for various 'unspecified' reasons."

      Accept they don't. Look up differential privacy.

      I love how people just make up bulls!t and say it as if were actually true.

    • bluvg

      "in any way they see fit"

      "They all agreed! ...making a product that is part human, and part centipede, and part web browser, and part emailing device!" "I should have never updated iTunes!"

  3. randallcorn

    Steve Gibson said it best. TNO Trust No One

    • Jeffsters

      That I agree with! But if you must use a cell phone use the one that stands for privacy and has the most to lose if it were ever found to be doing otherwise.

  4. winner

    Don't forget that in the US, your phone carrier tracks and sells your location anyway. And they know about all of your phone calls.

    Oh and your credit card company knows about all of your purchases, and they sell marketing data for that, too.

    Oh and the governments all over the USA have license plate readers on roads and in many locations they know where your car has been.

    But sure, Apple is protecting you.

  5. jason.meador

    Two things:

    1) Love the 'Dubious' auction house.

    2) What the heck happened to Nana???

  6. F4IL

    People who seriously value their privacy don't use smartphones. Those that use iphones and value their privacy probably take these (otherwise well produced) ads a little too seriously IMHO.

  7. anoldamigauser

    ...and DuckDuckGo is doing a nice add with "Google" serenading users with Sting's "Every breath you take"...I'll be watching you.

  8. bluvg

    When he says "Ellie's private data," it looks a bit like Data's memento of Tasha on TNG.

  9. scovious

    Apple champions their privacy efforts, but doesn't the iPhone uniquely blur out nudity automatically? I thought the iPhone was also the only phone that was scanning users' online and offline photo libraries for offensive imagery.

    It's ironic Apple is so proud about their lack of monetization of their customer data while being so bold with censorship and probing of their customer's data at the same time.

    • Greg Green

      It seems like you’re making almost everything up. Why?

    • Stabitha.Christie

      "doesn't the iPhone uniquely blur out nudity automatically?"

      What? No, the iPhone doesn't blur out nudity.

      "I thought the iPhone was also the only phone that was scanning users' online and offline photo libraries for offensive imagery."


      "It's ironic Apple is so proud about their lack of monetization of their customer data while being so bold with censorship and probing of their customer's data at the same time."

      It would be ironic if it were happening, sure.

  10. Donte

    270 Billion given to the CCP to access their markets. iCloud data for Chinese citizens must be stored in CCP data centers, in China. Apple gave the encryption keys to the CCP per the deal.

    Their privacy stance is PURE BS.