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What is it good for?

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Absolutely nothing, unless you class establishing supremacy as a good thing? This week, I am referring to the current tech war raging on between Facebook and Apple, two tech titans whose models are both as dodgy as each other.

On the one hand, you have Facebook, which generally operates via the honest and wholesome medium of spying, whereas Apple relies on trapping us in a loop of hardware, products and general control.

I mean, how dare Apple make it so I can no longer listen to my headphones and charge my phone at the same time, unless I buy more products (namely theirs) and in general, how dare they change the headphone jack that has been the same since the beginning of the 20th century. WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE, APPLE?

But, many of us have been sucked in by branding, and general FOMO (fear of missing out). After all, I’m convinced Apple products are designed to systematically break at around the two-year mark, I mean, products that are built to last aren’t good for business are they. That’s why we have fast fashion, flat pack furniture and all the other shite we buy that has the longevity of a rich tea biscuit.

Now, recently, Apple has added a new feature to its products that allows various apps to stop tracking us. Understandably this has enraged Facebook, whose whole business model is dependent on exactly that.

Of course, Apple hasn’t done this out of the goodness of its heart, or because it gives a crap about our privacy, but because it knows people are sick of being digitally spied on. Privacy is a hot topic now, with Facebook cited as one of the main offenders.

So, like any business worth its salt, Apple thought, ‘how can we make money out of this privacy problem we’ve helped create? We know, we’ll offer people the privacy that is their birth right.’

What a marvellous marketing tactic, highlighted by Apple’s latest TV ad, which opens with a coffee shop scene, where the customer purchasing a coffee is followed from the coffee shop and subsequently, everywhere he goes, by various people nosing into his business. The underlying message – you’re being tracked.

And the one doing most the tracking, just happens to be one of Apple’s primary competitors. And Apple, unfortunately for Facebook, are fantastic at branding, more specifically, they have an innate ability to attach ideas to their products that don’t really belong, all in a bid to make them more appealing – and it works.

That said, were we to demonstrate Apple’s business model in a similar TV ad, this poor guy would be imprisoned in a room containing only Apple products, allowed to leave only via the say so of Steve Job’s ghost.

But taking this Apple advert as an example, I just find it crazy that a tech company is able to so openly critique the idea of tech intrusion. It just goes to show, that capitalism has the ability to mobilise anti-capitalist tropes even within its own commercial narratives. It’s like living in Inception.

But Apple can do this, simply because at this point, its power in our world is almost beyond reproach. Referring to Facebook, Apple chief executive Tim Cook recently said, “If a business is built on misleading users, on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, it does not deserve our praise, it deserves reform.”

Now, Apple has realised it’s safe to go up against what would have previously been a kind of uneasy alliance with other tech companies. Initially, they allowed Facebook to follow their users, until they realised, ‘hang on a minute, we can kill Facebook.’

Facebook is in trouble. It may have fingers in many many pies, but the company has warned that Apple’s update could cut the money it earns through its ad network by half. And who have they cited this will hit the hardest? Small businesses, what a shock.

Just remember, neither of these companies are on our side. Their prerogative is profit, not privacy. Although, all this said, it will be interesting to see what Facebook’s counter move will be.

And even though I’ve been wanging on about the complexities and contradictions of the tech world, our Powered On podcast for our sister title Electrical Review, is now available to listen on Apple 😉 – or wherever you get your podcasts.

This editorial originally appeared in the Data Centre Review Newsletter July 2, 2021. To ensure you receive these editorials direct to your inbox, you can subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.

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