Apple takes aim at Facebook’s omnipresent advertising machine 蘋果要瓦解臉書鋪天蓋地的廣告機制

Tue, Jun 12, 2018 - Page 14

Hot on the heels of two major data privacy scandals involving the US presidential election and the sharing of user data with Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei Technologies, Facebook Inc now has another problem: Apple Inc is preparing to take a big bite out of its business model.

At last week’s annual software developers conference, Apple unveiled enhanced privacy features for the latest version of its Web browser app, Safari, which will be turned on by default on iPhones, iPads and Mac computers, and are designed to put an end to the murky business of data tracking.

Data tracking is used extensively by companies such as Facebook and Google — but also mysterious third-party data brokers — to follow users around the Web. Even if you do not use Facebook’s or Google’s services, they will likely still have a file on you. Apple’s enhanced privacy technology attempts to combat this in two ways.

First, in addition to removing cookies (tiny programs added to your browser), Safari will block trackers used by social networking sites. In the case of Facebook, these can take the form of “social plug-ins” such as “Like” and “Share” buttons — estimated to be on more than 13 million Web sites, comment fields, cross-site logins and even pixels invisible to the naked eye, called Facebook Pixel, which are embedded in more than 10,000 Web sites according to research by Belgian privacy watchdog, the Privacy Commission. Even if you are not logged into Facebook and you haven’t clicked on any plug-ins, Facebook can still use these elements to track your browsing activity. Apple aims to shut down this vast network of digital “listening posts.”

Second, through an update to its Safari browser, Apple will tackle the lesser known technique of “canvas fingerprinting,” which allows a user to be identified through their device and Web browser’s settings, even if they have removed cookies and are taking steps to hide their IP address such as by using a VPN service. In future, all Apple devices should look nearly identical to Web sites, limiting the ability of companies to apply fingerprints.

Apple’s positioning as a champion of privacy appears to be an astute commercial move: By leveraging its large user base it can shut down major revenue streams of its rivals, and other companies — such as Microsoft — may follow suit as enhanced privacy protection enters the mainstream. However, the decision may also be guided by Apple’s philosophy.

The company has traditionally taken a more robust stance on the privacy of its customers’ data since, unlike Google or Facebook, its business model relies on selling hardware and services, not advertising. Apple CEO Tim Cook has described data tracking as “totally out of control.”

Some EU and US politicians are now calling for Facebook to be broken up. One thing’s for sure, until Facebook can win back public trust, Apple will continue to dine out on its woes.

(Edward Jones, Taipei Times)

緊接在兩件重大資訊隱私醜聞爆發後──亦即涉入美國總統選舉,以及和中國電信巨擘華為科技公司共享用戶資訊──臉書(Facebook)現在面臨另一個麻煩:蘋果(Apple)正磨刀霍霍,打算利用其商業模式大撈一筆。

在上週的軟體開發者年度大會上,蘋果揭露該公司網頁瀏覽應用程式「Safari」最新版本強化的隱私功能。該功能將在iPhone、iPad,以及麥金塔電腦上預設為開啟,預期為資訊追蹤的秘密勾當畫下句點。

臉書與Google等公司──以及神秘的第三方資訊掮客──廣泛地使用資訊追蹤,在網路上亦步亦趨地跟蹤用戶。就算你沒有在使用臉書或Google的服務,這些公司仍可能擁有你的資料。蘋果公司強化的隱私保護技術試圖以兩種方式打擊資訊追蹤行為。

首先,除了移除cookies(也就是附加在你瀏覽器的小程式),Safari也將阻擋社群網站使用的追蹤器。以臉書來說,追蹤器可能會以「讚」和「分享」按鍵等「社群軟體插件」的形態出現,估計出現於超過一千三百萬個網站、留言區、跨網站登入、甚至是肉眼無法看見的程式碼「Facebook像素」。根據比利時的隱私守門員機構「隱私保護委員會」研究指出,嵌入這類程式碼的網站多達一萬多個。就算你並未登入臉書帳號,也沒有點選任何社群插件,臉書仍然可以利用這些元素追蹤你的網路瀏覽行為。蘋果的目標就是讓這片數位情報收集中心構成的巨大網絡關門大吉。

接著,蘋果將會藉由更新Safari瀏覽器來對付「數位指紋辨識」這個較不為人熟知的技術。該技術會藉由識別不同的瀏覽裝置和網頁瀏覽器設定來辨識使用者,就算使用者移除cookies,再利用虛擬私人網路服務(VPN)等方式隱藏自己的網際網路協定(IP)位址,也會是徒勞無功。未來,蘋果生產的所有裝置對網站而言都會幾乎一模一樣,遂能夠限制各公司運用數位指紋辨識的能力。

蘋果將自身定位為隱私權的擁護者,似乎是精明的一步商業盤算:利用廣大的用戶群優勢,該公司能夠切斷競爭對手主要的營收流,隨著增強的隱私保護逐漸蔚為主流,微軟等其他公司也可能起而效尤。不過,蘋果這個決策可能也是受到其經營哲學引導。

長久以來,蘋果對消費者隱私一直採取較為堅定的立場,這是因為該公司的商業模式仰賴硬體銷售與服務,而非廣告收入,因此迥異於Google或臉書。蘋果首席執行長提姆‧庫克曾以「全然失控」描述資訊追蹤的濫用。

歐洲或美國的一些政治家現正鼓吹將臉書拆分成數個獨立公司。唯一能確定的是,在臉書能夠重新贏回大眾的信任之前,蘋果會繼續在臉書的苦難之上大快朵頤。

(台北時報章厚明譯)

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Reading Comprehension

A brief history of Apple

The Apple Computer Company — later renamed Apple Inc — was founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne in the garage of Job’s family home in Los Altos, California. Apple’s first product was the Apple I computer, which lacked a keyboard, monitor and even a casing. The Apple II was released in 1977 and boasted features such as color graphics, floppy disk drive and a spreadsheet program.

Apple’s big breakthrough came in 1984 with the launch of the Apple Macintosh personal computer. The Macintosh was the first mass-market personal computer to feature a graphical user interface and a mouse.

Jobs was forced out of the company in 1985 but returned to Apple in 1997 to rescue the company which had by then fallen into decline. Jobs restructured the company and, together with Apple’s chief designer Jonathan Ive, developed highly successful products such as the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad, bringing the company back to profitability. Today Apple is on track to become the world’s first trillion US dollar company.

Questions…?

1. Do you feel comfortable with companies such as Google and Facebook building a file of your online activity, then selling this information to a third party?

2. Is it ethical for Facebook and others to covertly track you online without asking for your permission first?

3. Do you agree with Apple’s strategy of blocking online trackers — and therefore targeted advertising? Could there be any downsides?

(Edward Jones, Taipei Times)