Monday, March 9, 2015

Apple's big bet on consumer trust and privacy

The Apple Watch understandably took the limelight at Apple's big launch event today. But what is becoming increasingly clear is that to really understand the company we need to see it as so much more than simply a technology company. And we have to look beyond its products, however alluring they might be.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the area of corporate responsibility. For much of the past few years, the corporate responsibility community has been focusing hard on Apple's product supply chain. And for good reason, with a spate of labour violations plaguing the company (most recently from the BBC in December last year) despite some impressive commitments to responsible sourcing. But with the launch of the Apple Watch and its extended capabilities for health monitoring, research and diagnosis, along with the rapid growth of its Apple Pay system, it is the company's capabilities in data management and security that will likely define its reputation for corporate responsibility over the next decade.

As Tim Crook noted at the launch, the Apple Watch is "the most personal product we've ever made". It is not only wearable but collects real time data on users' health and fitness, enables them to make contactless payment direct from their financial services provider, and provides the possibility for a host of other applications relying on personal data. Keeping all of this data private and secure is going to be a big test for the company. Their success now will rely just as much on maintaining the trust of their consumers as it will on wowing them with cool new gadgets.

Apple is not alone in this of course. Other technology companies such as Facebook, Sony, Microsoft and Google have already learnt to their cost the necessity for maintaining the confidence of their customers in terms of privacy and security. Apple has had its own scares with breaches of its iCloud service, but its exposure to data security risks are only going to accelerate now that it is going increasingly personal. Apple is now not just in the technology industry but also in financial services and health services where the privacy and security concerns are accentuated even further.

Apple is making a big bet on consumer trust because it has a strong reputation for digital security already (say, compared to Microsoft) and it has less of the challenges in managing privacy compared to some of its others competitors. This is because it does not rely on ad revenue (and therefore intimate knowledge of its consumers) to drive profitability, unlike say, Google and Facebook. So it is already out ahead in many important respects. Whether it can maintain that pole position will remain to be seen. But what is clear is that Apple's reputation for corporate responsibility, and indeed its success in personal devices and services more generally, will increasingly be won and lost in the area of consumer trust and privacy rather than product design and execution alone.

Image copyright Martin Hajek. Reproduced under Creative Commons Licence


  1. Very nice article related to the apple watch I think that its really a amazing product ...Thanks for posting.... voice over company

  2. With such a personal item, security is major factor in its ultimate success. On another note, the Apple watch could bump gadgets like FitBit out of the marketing.


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