Apple's New Endeavors?

Today Apple was granted another patent. One of thousands, of course, but a patent that follows the thread of all that is social, digitally communicative, and now increasingly detectable.

The patent is in essence a viral advertising management system, so it tracks ads and other media content as it is shared through various mediums including email, texts, Facebook, Twitter, etc. According to the patent, user's names, addresses, and age can also be stored in a database. Is this a concern in the name of privacy, security, and ethics?

We don't necessarily know that Apple is planning on launching any product associated with viral advertising, or even that Apple will actively track and monitor social media consumption on an individual level.

Still, this advertising edge that Apple seems keen on gaining is telling of a broader strategic trajectory. According to Business Insider:

  • Apple is launching an ad blocker available for its latest update to the Safari web browser, which will let iPhone and iPad users block ads from web publishers.

  • Apple recently has expanded iAd, its mobile advertising system, to more countries, and Apple now offers programmatic ad buying inside iAd.

Appears similar to the generic Google and Facebook inspired monetization platforms in many ways. However, Apple's notoriety as a disruptive innovator makes this an interesting case, begging the question, what is Apple really up to with all of this?

It is certainly plausible that Apple simply files patents to deter others from obtaining certain technologies and thus maintaining leverage in terms of market competition. However, we see a bit of irony in this case, as Apple CEO Tim Cook recently condemned Google and Facebook's sequestration of personal information for profit when stating:

"Some of the most prominent and successful companies have built their businesses by lulling their customers into complacency about their personal information. They're gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetise it. We think that's wrong."

We can surely play the guessing game. However, what is important to note here is that with increasingly complex technologies proliferating every sphere of our lives, our own behavior no longer belongs to us. It is perfectly legally permissible for corporate entities and individuals to obtain and store information about your behavior, to varying degrees of course. Taking a neutral perspective, there is certainly potential in the insights that may be contained in the type of data that Apple can now extract. However, with great potential comes an even greater burden of responsibility of personal, individual data that is stored. And I am not sure how many of you have seen this, but after watching Terms and Conditions on Netflix (highly recommended), this case resonates loudly.

Weigh in, what do you think about not only Apple, but most entities with which you digitally engage, storing and often manipulating data that arguably belongs to you?