Did Google’s Eric Schmidt just call Apple’s Tim Cook a liar?

Apple, Google, Eric Schmidt, Tim Cook, security, privacy

Google chairman calls Apple’s privacy claims 'largely false'

Bilderberg Group regular, Google chairman Eric Schmidt just took time out to tell the BBC Apple’s claims about Google privacy are “largely false”.

Talking Schmidt

Here’s what he said:

"Their claims are largely false in their description of us.”

What does that mean? Is Schmidt accusing Apple CEO Tim Cook of telling falsehoods/lies (ie. “largely false”), or is he conceding that some of Cook’s claims are true, while obfuscating the matter?

Defending his company, Schmidt cites government regulation as a layer of protection users enjoy -- even though technology is evolving faster than the legal framework to protect us against its more egregious impacts.

Schmidt also uses the “these services are optional” argument. Though it is hard to avoid Google services, unless you use DuckDuckGo (usage of which is up 600 percent since Snowden).

But Schmidt’s most chilling argument is: “We know far less about you than you think we do." What does that really mean? I think it’s meaningless in contrast to the commitment to user privacy Apple provides.

Privacy matters

DuckDuckGo founder, Gabriel Weinberg told me: “Search data in particular is the most personal data on the Internet. You share your financial and medical and other problems with your search engine without even thinking about it. We think you should have the expectation of privacy with those personal searches.

“Surely you've noticed ads following you around the Internet? That's just the most visible evidence. Behind the scenes, you're also being charged different prices based on your data profile, for example.”

I’m writing on how Apple users can stay private online. In doing so, I’ve been chatting with people about the topic. Casey Oppenheim at Disconnect Me told me: “Currently, thousands of companies invisibly track vast amounts of personal information about us as we use applications and browse the Web.”

Watchmen

But surely corporations like Google protect our data?

They might, but as Little Snitch developer Manfred Linzner, warns: “Nearly every application is connecting to the Internet in some ways. A lot with good reason, some to deliver questionable data and others just maliciously.”

It is dangerous to perceive such data acquisition as taking place in a silo. Data from disparate sources can be aggregated to build more accurate profiles. This isn’t just used for ads sales.

“These invisible connections are increasingly used by cybercriminals to distribute malware, steal confidential personal and business information, damage property, and engage in identity theft. This invisible and largely undisclosed tracking presents serious risks, as was highlighted by a recent study by Eurecom,” warns Oppenheim.

So, is Schmidt accusing Tim Cook of lying? I don’t think he is, because I don’t think he can.

Take steps

There are things you can do to reduce your digital footprint. First, use DuckDuckGo or another browser that doesn’t track your online activity for search. Second, use an add-on to block trackers on sites you visit, such as Privacy Badger (or Ghostery if you use Safari). Finally use strong encryption tools, such as HTTPS Everywhere or DisconnectMe.

It is also possible to dump Facebook for open source social network, Minds, which launched this week. Created by a group of online privacy advocates, Minds is an encrypted platform that is peer reviewed for tight security.

Announcing Minds, Evan Greer, campaign director for Fight For The Future, recommends: "The Internet is an incredible platform for expression and creativity, but its potential is threatened…. One of the most concrete things that Internet users can do to fight back is to move away from giant, centralized Web services...”

Google+? If you use social media and happen to be a Google+ user, why not join AppleHolic's Kool Aid Corner community and join the conversation as we pursue the spirit of the New Model Apple?

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