Apple slams Google for privacy violations in antitrust trial

Apple has accused Google of being a “massive tracking device” that collects and exploits users’ personal data for its own benefit, according to internal documents revealed in the ongoing antitrust trial against the search giant.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) released a series of documents on Thursday as part of its case against Google, alleging that the company has abused its dominant position in the online search market to stifle competition and harm consumers.

Apple slams Google for privacy violations in antitrust trial
Apple slams Google for privacy violations in antitrust trial

Among the documents was an internal Apple presentation from 2013, which was an exhibit entered into the case when Apple’s SVP of services Eddy Cue testified in September. The presentation, which was largely redacted, compared Apple’s and Google’s approaches to user privacy, and criticized Google for its invasive practices.

Android is a “massive tracking device”

One of the slides in the presentation referred to Android, Google’s mobile operating system, as “a massive tracking device” that collects users’ location, browsing history, app usage, and other data, and shares it with Google and third-party advertisers.

The slide also quoted a statement from then-Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who said in 2010 that “Google’s policy is to get right up to the creepy line but not cross it.”

The presentation contrasted Apple’s privacy philosophy, which claimed to respect users’ choice and control over their data, and to limit the collection and use of personal information for its own services.

Apple also highlighted how it separated users’ accounts for iCloud, the App Store, and the iTunes Store, and how it did not track or target users based on their Siri and Maps usage.

Google’s services are “designed to exploit user data”

Another slide in the presentation compared Google’s and Apple’s services, such as their voice assistants, mapping, search, and advertising platforms.

The slide claimed that Google’s services were “designed to exploit user data”, and that Google used its search engine, Gmail, Chrome, and YouTube to collect and analyze users’ behavior, preferences, and interests, and to deliver personalized ads and content.

The slide also accused Google of recording private Wi-Fi communications, routing Kindle browser traffic through its own servers, and commingling user data across its services and products.

Apple, on the other hand, claimed that its services were “designed to protect user data”, and that it did not use users’ data for advertising purposes, or share it with third parties without consent.

Apple also boasted about its features such as Safari’s private browsing mode, iMessage’s end-to-end encryption, and FaceTime’s peer-to-peer connection.

Apple made a deal with Google despite privacy concerns

Despite its privacy reservations, Apple made a deal with Google to make it the default search engine on its devices, which reportedly earned Apple $18 to $20 billion in 2021.

Cue reportedly told the court that Apple made the deal because there was no viable alternative to Google’s search engine, and that Apple tried to negotiate better privacy terms with Google, such as making data sharing reciprocal.

The DoJ has argued that Google’s payments to Apple and other companies, such as Mozilla and Samsung, to be the default search engine on their browsers and devices, have created a “self-reinforcing cycle of monopolization” that has harmed competition and consumers.

The trial, which began in October, is expected to last for 10 weeks, and could result in significant changes to Google’s business practices and market power, if the court rules against it.

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