Apple Flaunts Privacy At CES – Why Other Companies Should Pay Attention

I’m at CES today, and while I’m here alone, I don’t feel alone thanks to my iPhone. I am in constant contact with friends and family. My iPhone is like the personal assistant I never had, and is helping me navigate CES.  My iPhone knows me, and has access to more personal information about me than any member of my family. My iPhone will be the thing I touch most while I’m at the CES conference. It will be with me on the airplane when I arrive and grab ground transportation, when I check in at the event, through conference sessions, as I take photos of the exhibit hall, when I go to sleep and when I wake up. As an Apple customer, my privacy means everything to me. But 2018 was a bad year for customer privacy. As more of the companies we do business with fail us through hacks and data breaches, the companies that step up and protect customer data – even taking a stand on it – will win a place in the customer’s heart.

If you’re heading to CES this week, you won’t see Apple products on display, but you’ll still see the brand’s presence in an unlikely location. Apple usually doesn’t participate in CES, but this year it’s making its voice heard with a powerful message of privacy: “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.” The message is painted on the side of a 13-story building overlooking the CES convention center.

Taking Aim At Tech Giants

The quippy take on the Las Vegas motto is a direct hit at Amazon and Google, who have both had privacy issues in recent years. Apple has always been a huge proponent of customer privacy. The billboard includes the URL for Apple’s privacy page, which says in big letters: “Apple products are designed to protect your privacy.” The company’s stance made headlines a few years ago when the company refused to unlock an iPhone belonging to a suspect in the San Bernardino terrorist attack. Even under incredible scrutiny, Apple stood its ground and refused to build a backdoor to the iPhone. Doing so, it said, would create something that could fall into the wrong hands and put all of its customers’ privacy at risk.

On the other hand, Amazon and Google’s devices have been accused of listening to conversations and using that information to sell customers products they’ve been talking about. News stories about breaches of privacy have popped up everywhere recently. It seems like not a week goes by without new accusations against some of the biggest tech companies, including Facebook and Google.

Customers Care About Privacy

Apple has always said it makes money by selling customers hardware and software, not by selling its customers’ personal data. That stance is exactly what other companies should be doing. Customers are now more aware of their privacy and personal data. Instead of allowing every company to have access to their information, modern customers like to hold their cards close to their chests and how power over who accesses their data. They don’t take kindly to companies that have lax attitudes toward their privacy.

It could be easy for Amazon and Google to make excuses for not completely protecting their customers’ privacy. After all, most of the information they’re using is supposedly just to sell more targeted products. But the root of the problem isn’t what products are recommended to customers—it’s that a company customers should be able to trust completely isn’t keeping their private information absolutely private.

Nearly 75% of consumers say it’s very important to them to be in control of who can get information about them. But just 9% say they have a lot of control over the information that is collected about them. Clearly, privacy is a huge issue for consumers. The control that consumers feel will likely shift lower in coming months and years as more companies are accused of mistreating private information.

Experience has already surpassed price and product for customers—people are willing to pay more for a better experience. In the tech world, privacy plays a huge role in the overall experience. Consumers want to use products they can trust from companies that allow them to control their personal data. In 2018, along with the stories of companies misusing customer data, we also saw the start of GDPR, which gives consumers in the EU power to control who has access to their private data. We’ll likely see the growth of similar legislation in coming years.

Privacy matters. Customers matter. Tech giants need to realize that no matter how big the company is, it still has a responsibility to consumers to protect their information, even if that means protecting information from its own company.

Customers already know the importance of privacy. Maybe now tech companies will see the (literal) writing on the wall and realize the importance for themselves.

Blake Morgan is a keynote speaker, futurist and author of “More Is More.” Sign up for her weekly customer experience newsletter here

Originally published on Forbes here.

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