The recent mess that arrived with the macOS Big Sur upgrade had a lot of people shaking their fists at Apple, and not just for the now standard device bricking and server crashes. The latest version of macOS says a lot about Apple, but it should already have been obvious that at best they are an incredibly cynical organisation. This is not an exhaustive account, but it says enough a lot about Apple hypocrisy and cynicism on privacy and everything else.
To start, Apple claims that Privacy is a fundamental human right with a couple of large caveats. First, Apple are the arbiters of that privacy, and second they are immune to their own principles and rules. There is also something deeply troubling about a corporation that trades on the idea of human rights for gadget users of the global north while actively lobbying against legislation that would hold companies to account for using Uighur forced labour. And, it is worth noting Apple were caught doing this after they produced their much touted Human Rights Policy. This is not simply cognitive dissonance, it is plainly cynical behaviour. But we should not be surprised, Apple continues to defend their supply chain, but the ideological drive of über production in itself is killing people. Apple has long been accused of worker violations in Chinese factories, but foreign workers don’t seem to matter to the optics like greenwashing is.
It should be clear Apple are not the benevolent force so many people seem to think they are. But here’s the really concerning thing for me, Apple is such a religious phenomenon that much of its fanbase is so genuinely fanatical that it is impossible to get through the fog. Cue articles defending the benevolent trillionaires, or look at the divide and conquer public relations that praise Apple’s limited concept of sustainability — claiming carbon neutral targets while at the same time building more obsolescence into products, and denying users the right to repair or parts to be recycled . Or for that matter, witness the mental gymnastics performed on Daring Fireball to justify Apple’s systematic pattern of global tax evasion.
If Apple think differently, they think differently to you. Even the privacy pledges don’t hold up, under the surface Apple has seized on a competitive advantage that is about monopolising control of its on user base, offering privacy to users in some parts of the world as a marketable feature, while being complicit in widespread surveillance in other parts of the world, and actively participating in Chinese State censorship. Even their method for diverting trackers is about control, as they don’t exactly stop you from being tracked, instead they act as a gatekeeper for tracking — check the campaign by My Privacy is None of Your Business .
This brings me the recent updates in Apple operating systems, in particular macOS Big Sur. If you weren’t already aware, there has been a lot of consternation about Apple bypassing VPNs. This might be little misleading, as any decent VPN will still protect you, however Apple has gone to ridiculous lengths to hide their own processes and to ensure firewall apps that control the flow of connections cannot stop system process from calling home. I think the Register put this best in their headline: Apple’s privacy pledges: We sent dev checks over plain HTTP, logged IP addresses. We bypass firewall apps
There is more to the more to this of course, Apple will continue to push its status as champions of privacy as long as it provides a competitive advantage, but nobody should be fooled into thinking this is anything more than a marriage of convenience. Between the introduction of macOS Big Sur and their own in-house silicon, Apple is moving towards unprecedented control over its computing platforms. There has been so much hyperbole from the fanbase about the performance of M1 chips, but that is really a byproduct of what is ultimately a land grab. Apple’s motivation for this is control, not security, and certainly not privacy. They have steadily been eating into the landscape that made OS X such a richly extensible platform in the past few years, in the previous release of macOS they blocked access to spotlight indexes for popular third party search and contact, and they are so well known for pinching apps they like for new system features there is a word for it, sherlocking.
Apple like to tout their innovation chops. But innovation is also gated by Apple as they slowly destroy all independence on the platform by requiring anything that runs on macOS to be approved and notarised by them. This is no doubt another step towards App Store only apps on the Mac, it will happen eventually.
This might seem like a grab bag of gripes, but the wide range of issues mentioned speak got the general cynicism that so many in the bizarro world of the Apple fanbase seem unaware of. Apple’s massive user base could do so much more to hold them to account, instead we have the aberrant contemporary phenomenon of tech company fandom. Large tech companies like Apple are essentially utilities companies these days, think of that when you next see Tim Cook signing his autograph to an unboxed iPhone. We are all in this one way or another, but we would do well to engage in a bit of consciousness raising.
And, while we are on security. Apple’s focus on security starts to look pretty hollow in the face of the recent zero day exploits