I have no reason to trust Sundar Pichai when talking about Google’s sudden love of all things privacy, as detailed during this year’s Google I/O and a subsequent self-serving op-ed in the New York Times. Google may be better than Facebook by a wide margin, but using customer data will always be key to their business model. As such, they can never be as focused on user data privacy as Apple currently is.
That’s all fine and good. I’m not here to say that Google is evil or advocate abandoning their products and services. However, I do think it’s disingenuous for the company to present itself as something it isn’t. They are not and never will be the chief protector of user data privacy. That just isn’t possible. That’s why Sundar Pichai’s crack about privacy not being a luxury good in his Times op-ed was just a bridge too far.
Earlier this week, Apple’s VP over software development Craig Federighi fired back at Google’s Sundar Pichai over his remark during an Interview with The Independent:
“I don’t buy into the luxury good dig,” says Federighi, giving the impression he was genuinely surprised by the public attack.
“It’s on the one hand gratifying that other companies in this space, over the last few months, seemed to be making a lot of positive noises about caring about privacy. I think it’s a deeper issue than what a couple of months and a couple of press releases would make. I think you’ve got to look fundamentally at company cultures and values and business model. And those don’t change overnight.
“But we certainly seek to both set a great example for the world to show what’s possible, to raise people’s expectations about what they should expect of products, whether they get them from us or from other people. And of course, we love, ultimately, to sell Apple products to everyone we possibly could – certainly not just a luxury.
“We think a great product experience is something everyone should have. So we aspire to develop those.”
Federighi was a little more subtle in his remarks than Pichai, but he does a nice job of calling out Google’s “Johnny-come-lately” status when it comes to championing privacy. For all the big talk a few weeks ago, they still have a lot to prove, while Apple has been at this quite a bit longer.
I felt sure that a response to Sundar Pichai’s pithy quote would come at WWDC, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if a remark or two still make the stage on Monday. However, Federighi’s remarks were nicely put and, in my personal opinion, a well-deserved clap back from the Apple brass. I don’t see them ceding one inch of the privacy territory they have spent great time and effort staking out as their own, so this will likely just the first of many responses.