The mobile arms race: Why privacy is the next battleground
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article published with permission from Knowledge@Wharton, the online research and business analysis journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Recently, Apple and Google unveiled the latest iterations of their iOS and Android mobile platforms, respectively. While these were incremental enhancements from both companies, a war is brewing to make consumers’ smartphones even smarter, by using more personal data.
The two companies dominate the mobile platform space, and are now taking the fight to a new battleground that revolves around knowing users well enough to be proactively helpful, to deliver information that is contextually relevant and to make their devices act even more like a human personal assistant.
At the Google I/O developer conference in May, Google executives highlighted the search giant’s investments in artificial intelligence and machine learning. Whether it was Google Photos, which is designed to analyze and organize a person’s pictures, or the next iteration of Google Now and Android, the company said its algorithms will make life easier.
But each company has the same goal behind its strategy: "Each platform would love you to live your life there and help you do everything you want to do," notes Wharton management professor David Hsu. "However, Apple is trying to take the higher ground on privacy."
At the beginning of June, Apple CEO Tim Cook, blasted Google indirectly while accepting an award from EPIC, a group that champions online privacy. Mr. Cook noted that some Silicon Valley companies have built their business by "gobbling up everything they can learn about you and trying to monetize it. We think that’s wrong."
For now, Apple has been pushing itself as a more human alternative to Google’s algorithm-led approach.
Yet it’s unclear how much privacy — or the perception of it — overall will matter in the mobile race toward "big data."
"There is a lot of confusion about what people are willing to share," Wharton marketing professor Peter Fader explains. "When you ask people in a survey about it, they give a politically correct answer that they don’t want to share. However, people are willing to give away data even though they say the opposite."
The tech industry itself is debating how information should be used and the trade-off between delivering free services and collecting data.
Forrester Research found in an online poll of 20,000 adults that 63 percent of U.S. smartphone users are concerned about privacy and security.
"No matter how quickly wearables and connected objects emerge in the next 10 years, mobility has already introduced a paradigm shift — the ability to collect and use data about individuals in the physical world," Forrester analyst Thomas Husson said in a blog post. "Data collected via mobile will be much more sensitive, more personal and more contextual."
- The Mobile Arms Race: Why Privacy Is the Next Battleground – Knowledge@Wharton
- Build Trust Or Die – Thomas Husson’s Blog
How influential will consumer privacy concerns be on the advancement of personal data collection via mobile platforms? Do you see a privacy backlash threatening current or potential benefits of the technology for retailers?