Peer pressure on privacy issues gets to Apple

Apple CEO Steve Jobs announces iAd, part of the new iPhone OS4 software, during an Apple special event.

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: This week, Florida GOP Congressman Cliff Stearns introduced an updated online privacy bill that would require companies to disclose how they'll use personal information. Some tech firms aren't waiting for new laws to be enacted. The Wall Street Journal reports, Apple is just the latest to add a 'Do Not Track' tool to its Safari Internet browser.

John Moe is host of Marketplace Tech Report and he's with us now. Good morning John.

JOHN MOE: Hi steve.

CHIOTAKIS: So how does a "Do Not Track" option help me?

MOE: Well, it blocks advertisers from tracking you as you go around the Internet looking at things -- maybe buying things. Not being tracked -- it's a privacy thing more than anything. You're stopping them from building a big profile of you that they can then use to sell you more stuff. And of course the only way it actually does help you is if you switch it on and most people never will.

CHIOTAKIS: Apple seems like just the latest company to add this to their browser. Why does this become such a sought-after feature?

MOE: It really started heating up late last year. That's when the Federal Trade Commission came out and said all browser should have this feature. And everybody took that 'should' to mean eventually they're going to be required to have that feature. So everybody started getting on it right away. Microsoft was the first to get on it. Mozilla followed suit with Firefox. Google offered an extension for Chrome, a little thing you could download to add to Chrome, and now here comes Apple putting it in in the next big version of Safari.

CHIOTAKIS: And Google isn't making it very easy though to do this "Do Not Track," right?

MOE: The cynical approach of course is Google makes mountains of money, Mount Everest full of dollar bills that they can roll in off of advertising, and knowledge working together. That's the Google business model, so to make tracking harder, cuts into that. And you know, why do you cut into your cash flow? But if you're in a competitive marketplace like browsers, you don't want to be seen as the browser that is lacks on privacy, or lacks on security. So eventually that is going to override everything I think.

CHIOTAKIS: Is this John, part of any broader push do you think? Like as far as legislation goes in the Congress right now?

MOE: Yeah. It's a big topic in Washington. John Kerry and John McCain joined forces to introduce a bill in the Senate about privacy. And you know it's an easy political win too. "Protect your privacy, I'm the guy that did that." So, yeah, everybody's getting on board.

CHIOTAKIS: Marketplace Tech Report host John Moe. John, thanks.

MOE: Thanks.

About the author

John Moe is the host of Marketplace Tech Report, where he provides an insightful overview of the latest tech news.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...