Apple’s public and private talks on privacy appear to be very different

A new report aims to shed some light on Apple’s focus on user privacy and security, and, most importantly, how it differs between public positioning and private talks.

Apple has a pretty stringent approach to user privacy and security. It believes, wholeheartedly, that it’s doing what is in the best interest of those who buy Apple-branded products. Which is why the company might not always be on the side of lawmakers who are vying to establish their own rules in the same vein.

The Washington Post has a new report out on Monday, detailing how Apple’s vocal side of things might be a bit different than what goes on behind closed doors. That starts with Tim Cook meeting with Democratic lawmakers:

When Apple CEO Tim Cook privately hosted six Democratic lawmakers at the company’s space-age headquarters this spring, he opened the conversation with a plea — for Congress to finally draft privacy legislation after years of federal inaction.

“It was the first issue he brought up,” said Rep. Suzan DelBene (Wash.), one of the lawmakers who made the trip to Cupertino, Calif. The Apple chief “really talked about the need for privacy across the board,” said DelBene, a former Microsoft executive.

But when DelBene discussed her own privacy bill, which would require companies to obtain consent before using consumers’ most sensitive information in unexpected ways, Cook didn’t specifically endorse it, she said.

State-level privacy bills appear to be a sticking point for Apple across the board. But what’s unfortunate is Apple’s apparent contributions to lobbying efforts against those new privacy bills that could be gestating.

Apple indirectly opposed the legislation, via trade groups it funded. On the other hand, Levine noted that Apple had approached him directly to discuss California’s plastic bag ban. “They lobby in all these other areas. They’re just not face forward on privacy.”

Interestingly, Apple’s position appears to be to avoid state-level privacy bills altogether, and rather says it wants to see new laws on a federal level. However, Apple hasn’t actually gone out of its way to actually endorse or support that position behind-the-scenes, either.

”We believe privacy is a fundamental human right and is at the core of what it means to be an American. To that end, we advocate for strong federal legislation that protects everyone regardless of which state they may live,” said Apple spokesman Fred Sainz. “We understand the frustration at the state level — we are frustrated too — but this topic is so important we need to be united across America.”

While this report does make it clear that Apple has different tactics when it comes to its public stance on privacy and the conversations around that idea behind closed doors, it seems pretty straightforward in the end. Apple has its own idea of what user privacy and data security should look like, and, for the most part, believes it can handle the majority of the work on its own.

However, it is less than stellar that Apple backs some lobbyists that are actively moving against privacy in Washington, D.C. Maybe the silver lining here is that Apple has only spent $7 million on lobbying in 2018, while Facebook doled out upwards of $13 million and Alphabet (parent company to Google) shelled out a whopping $22 million.

But, what do you think? Let us know in the comments.