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Apple privacy policy puts consumers before advertisers to ensure sales

Apple's privacy policy eased user privacy concerns and laid the groundwork for Apple Pay, Apple Watch and health data. Also in Searchlight: former Home Depot workers say the company settled for low-level security; and are 'thinkables' on the horizon?

In one fell swoop, Apple CEO Tim Cook took aim at Facebook and Google, addressed data security and privacy concerns, and asked the company's customers to put their trust in Apple's new products.

In an open letter published on Apple's site Wednesday, Cook wrote:

A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realize that when an online service is free, you're not the customer. You're the product. But at Apple, we believe a great customer experience shouldn't come at the expense of your privacy.

As Apple's blog noted on Wednesday, its new iOS 8 will keep data stored on users' iPhones encrypted, regardless of whether the government serves the company a search warrant for its extraction.

Say what you will about Apple's security negligence in the past or whether you think it's fair to call out other tech firms when its own lack of oversight could have contributed to its recent security troubles; it does look like company wants to be on the right side of consumer privacy. Frankly, it makes business sense for Apple to position itself on the right side of consumer privacy, at least, if it hopes to capitalize on its forays into NFC payments, wearable technology, connected health experiences and more.

The trust gap

For CIOs, the issue of consumer privacy in the wake of Apple's product launches (and promises) is complex, because consumer privacy is potentially a threat to corporate security. As employees store personal data from sources that include the Apple Watch, Apple Pay and the HealthKit app multiples on the very same devices on which they store precious corporate data, companies have to protect corporate assets and keep their noses out of employees' personal data.

As the numbers grimly attest, CIOs have difficulty with maintaining this balance -- in the eyes of their customers. According to a study conducted by mobile solutions provider MobileIron, which surveyed consumers in three markets, despite there currently being more than 80% of consumers who use their personal mobile devices for work, only 30% "completely trust" their employer to keep their personal data private -- a 50% discrepancy the company calls a "trust gap" between employees and employers.

Employees are so mistrustful, in fact, that they want some guarantees in writing, according to the survey; for example: to provide employees written notification about what data can and can't be seen by employers; to ask for their permission in writing before accessing any data on their devices; to guarantee in writing that employers will only look at corporate data on their devices; and to detail the purpose of looking at certain information on their devices.

For sure, companies will have to incorporate these new data types and tasks into their mobile strategies, advised Ojas Rege, vice president of strategy at MobileIron.

"Many companies do not have the policies and processes in place to deal with their corporate mobile devices being used for life-critical tasks," he wrote in the company's blog.

Rege also suggests that when revising privacy policies and communication, companies assume that every mobile device, and not just employee-owned ones, is used for both corporate and personal reasons. "Move to a model of selective management and selective wipe to secure enterprise data while protecting life-critical workflows and personal data." And, policies can't exist in vacuum. Companies will have to update their mobile app development guidelines to align with these revamped mobile device policies.

"We know that trust doesn't come easy," Cook said in Apple's privacy letter. Enterprises can say the same. Good luck.

CIO news roundup for week of Sept. 15

The news never stops. Here's some of what else was happening this week:

  • Home Depot's lack of security oversight could have facilitated the widespread hack it announced earlier this month, former information security staffers told Businessweek. The whistleblowers said the gap in its security was the result of out-of-date antivirus tools, "C-level security" and lack of encryption.
  • Businesses might soon have the same analytics capabilities that have previously been reserved for research scientists. IBM is launching a cognitive tool that uses the Watson supercomputer to analyze business data to answer various questions, provide visualizations and predict future outcomes.
  • FitBit it ain't: Jolt is looking to launch a clip-on wearable fitness monitoring tool that not only tracks metrics such as calories burned, but also performs more complex functions for professional athletes and your run-of-the-mill weekend warrior athletes. Measurements, which range from the level of head trauma sustained to the strain on an athlete's calves, are then relayed, in real time, to the accompanying mobile app.
  • And if you think there are too many wearables to count, get a load of "thinkables." Yes, you heard that right -- the Muse headset, tethered to mobile app Calm via Bluetooth, monitors your brain activity and uses that info to soothe your mind. An ironic approach to mindful awareness, if you ask me (I still want one, though).
  • Some cities are still working on adding bike lanes to their busy streets, but Hong Kong is one step ahead of them. It's dividing one of its busiest sidewalks into two lanes: one for pedestrians with cell phones, and the other for those without.

Check out our previous Searchlight roundups on how the iPhone 6 and Apple Watch challenge CIOs, and the silver lining of the Apple iCloud hack.

Next Steps

Take a look at SearchHealthIT's breakdown of the HealthKit platform. Then, head to SearchConsumerization to learn more about the iOS 8's new features. Finally, see our coverage on Apple's alliance with IBM to break into the enterprise.

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How do you expect the iOS 8 to impact your enterprise mobile strategy?
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Since upgrading to the iPhone 6 Plus, I am finding iOS much more useful and powerful than I anticipated. As I experiment with iOS 8 on the 6 Plus I can see myself implementing the Pass Off feature on a regular basis, allowing needed documents to be edited or worked on to be passed effortlessly between my iPhone and my MacBook. For my industry this means greater access to information that need immediate edits, thus making my work and life easier. iOS is a substantial iOS that I am going to implement as a go-to business tool.
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