I recently wrote about Kickstarter, my once beloved crowdfunding platform, which previously seemed like the future of collaborative creativity. It has now become an engine of disappointment, mostly because it didn’t do enough to maintain trust in its platform. It is a story that has repeated across the technology landscape, where in the pursuit of growth and size, platforms have devalued trust in their brands and services. Big tech was trading the trust bestowed upon them by the “collective we” for maximum profits. “Do no evil” became “let’s not get caught doing evil.”
Kickstarter might be a good example of why Apple is spooked. A few weeks ago, Google pointed out that there was a large-scale hacking effort that targeted Apple devices. On Friday, Apple — which has sold privacy, security, and trust as its key value propositions — took an unprecedented step and posted a statement on Google’s veiled implication that this was an attack on iPhone customers.
I read Apple’s response, which was clearly very defensive. While I dismissed Google’s efforts as a chance to puncture Apple’s privacy blimp (Google is really good at shifting attention away from its own dirty privacy tricks), but Apple’s statement is what has raised some red flags for me. What are they not telling us? And why are they telling us now, so long after the fact? Why not come clean earlier? I am not alone.
“This upends pretty much everything we know about iPhone hacking. We believed that it was hard,” respected security expert Bruce Schneier writes on his blog. “We believed that if an exploit was used too frequently, it would be quickly discovered and patched. None of that is true here. This operation used fourteen zero-days exploits. It used them indiscriminately. And it remained undetected for two years.” While I am unlikely to switch to Android, my trust in the privacy and security capability of their devices has eroded.
By the way, Dave Lee of BBC points out that the attacks were orchestrated by China, and the targets were Uighurs. Of course, given that both Apple and Google have so much at stake in China, it is not much of a surprise that both of them have nothing to say about that.