Former iAd exec leaves Apple, suggests company platform is held back by user data privacy policy

iAd Producer MacBook

Winston Crawford, a former advertising executive, has left Apple to join Drawbridge. The move comes at an interesting time given Tim Cook’s recent comments on user data and privacy.

Drawbridge is a relatively new company which helps marketers track user data across multiple mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. He joined as COO to help expand the tracking technology to new areas like offering the ability for retailers to show the same online shopping cart to a single customer across multiple devices.

What’s interesting about this move is Crawford’s comments about Apple’s way of doing ads. Going back to those thoughts shared by Tim Cook about not being in the business of harvesting user data for profit, and looking at what Drawbridge does, it’s quite a startling contrast between the two.

“I don’t believe they [Apple] are interested in this capability because they have a strict policy around what they do with user data,” Crawford said. “IAd has great assets and great capabilities, but they are going to follow Apple’s policy to the letter of the law.”

In other words, he believes that because iAd doesn’t harvest and share private user information with marketers, that the service is restricted or held back. His suggestion then is that Apple’s moral code gets in the way of a potentially very promising platform.

Personally, I’d rather know that my user data was safe. Drawbridge’s technology – on first read – sounds quite terrifying. As reported by the Wall Street Journal:

Drawbridge’s technology works to identify users by applying machine-learning techniques to large amounts of data generated from devices. The goal is to estimate the probability that multiple devices belong to the same person. If a desktop computer and a smartphone are connecting to the same WiFi network, the network will recognize the unique ID in each device and pass that information to Drawbridge.

On the other — (slightly) more comforting — hand, Drawbridge doesn’t store or save people’s real identities in its database. Rather, it builds its database using identification numbers and creates anonymous profiles from those. I still can’t help but feel it’s more than a little invasive.

Drawbridge has reportedly doubled in size just over the past 12 months and it’s perhaps against the backdrop of this knowledge that Tim Cook voiced his thoughts on privacy. Maybe it’s time for Apple to do a re-boot of its “Big Brother” ad.

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Comments

  1. paulywalnuts23 - 8 years ago

    Down with Drawbridge. Just need to know who is using it so I don’t. Thank you Apple for your stand on privacy.

    • jacosta45 - 8 years ago

      If Crawford says Apple’s moral code gets in the way of great advertising, then Crawford may not have been the best fit as an advertising executive at Apple.

    • Rhys Morgan - 8 years ago

      Agreed. So many of these companies seem to think they have some business in what we do on the internet. No, it’s literally none of their business which websites I visit, where I spend time, which device I use to do what on, unless you are that website.

  2. irelandjnr - 8 years ago

    Super!

  3. People are not products (yet for Google they are) but human beings. Apple has a great policy. Keep on!

    • This article had no mention of Google and yet you feel the need to bring Google up?

      For the record. No you are not the product as a Google user.

      • paulywalnuts23 - 8 years ago

        Actually you are, how do you think they make money? YOUR INFO.

      • Kaloyan (@kalo_angel) - 8 years ago

        Well Google is a data collection company, it’s customers aren’t it’s users. Every google product is designed to collect data, and that data is sold through ads, that’s their business model. It’s hard not to mention Google, Facebook etc. when speaking about internet privacy. I suggest you watch Aral Balkan’s talk about the “Free. Forever” model, it can really open your eyes on the way Silicone Valley companies make their money.

      • 89p13 - 8 years ago

        I find your user name – A Wolf at the Door – to be a perfect tag line for Google!

        as Paulywalnuts23 says – “You are the product for Google”

      • Google make their money a different way to Apple, but to anyone who claims that you are not a product as an Apple user think again. When you purchase Apple tech you aren’t. The second you hand over your details for your Apple ID you are I’m afraid.

        See, iAd does still exist, and if an advertiser gives Apple some money then that advertiser can target an ad to your demographic. By default then YOUR DETAILS ARE A PRODUCT WHICH APPLE INDIRECTLY SELLS TO ADVERTISERS.

        The App store exists purely to make money for Apple. When a developer uploads an app, they hope that Apple customers will purchase it. When a customer does buy it, a percentage goes to Apple, and a percentage to the developer. Because Apple get a percentage YOUR DETAILS ARE A PRODUCT WHICH APPLE INDIRECTLY SELLS TO APP DEVELOPERS.

        When you purchase music through iTunes, a percentage goes to Apple, and a percentage to the artist. YOUR DETAILS ARE A PRODUCT WHICH APPLE INDIRECTLY SELLS TO ARTISTS.

        Is there anything wrong with this? No there isn’t. Apple, like every other for-profit business that has ever existed, are out to make a profit. It just so happens that Apple have arguably the greatest business model that there has ever been so they must be doing something right.

        Remember, if you don’t like Google or their practices you are in NO WAY forced to use them or their services. Ditto with Apple. Don’t like Apple and the way they run their business? Don’t buy their stuff then! There are plenty of other options available.

        But please please please don’t make one business out to be Satan itself, while the other one is holier than thou, because they are both as Good, or Bad, as each other :)

      • auntietroal - 8 years ago

        “When a customer does buy it, a percentage goes to Apple, and a percentage to the developer. Because Apple get a percentage YOUR DETAILS ARE A PRODUCT WHICH APPLE INDIRECTLY SELLS TO APP DEVELOPERS.”
        Completely wrong. Developers get money for a sale but absolutely no customer information from Apple. This is in contrast to Google Play, which does give developers personal information whenever someone purchases an app.

        “When you purchase music through iTunes, a percentage goes to Apple, and a percentage to the artist. YOUR DETAILS ARE A PRODUCT WHICH APPLE INDIRECTLY SELLS TO ARTISTS”
        Again, completely wrong. Artists get no information about anyone who buys their music from Apple.

        “Remember, if you don’t like Google or their practices you are in NO WAY forced to use them or their services.”
        Wrong wrong wrong. Whenever I send my email to someone hosting a domain on Gmail, Google parses my email ands adds my information to a tracking ID, completely against my will. Google also tracks me through websites without any permission from me.

        Get your facts right before spouting.

  4. RobAlex - 8 years ago

    Good riddance to bad rubbish!

  5. Kaloyan (@kalo_angel) - 8 years ago

    In a post-Snowden world there just isn’t space for a sh*thead like that at Apple. It’s good that Tim Cook is leading the internet privacy revolution!

  6. Mark Granger - 8 years ago

    iAds is being held back by a lack of imagination. The ad bar has a great deal of potential beyond ads if Apple chooses to use it. It could show you useful information like local weather alerts (like DarkSky) stock prices, news headlines, sports scores and other relevant information tailored to each user. This would increase the attention that users give to the ad bar making the ads themselves more effective. It would also encourage app developers to make the ad bar visible as an option and still earn revenue when they do it. Reband it as the info bar and it will become a way for apple to communicate directly with their customers.

    • AeronPeryton - 8 years ago

      iOS already has a notification bar. What you just described is being delivered personal info on someone else’s schedule. “Oh man, I hope the next ad tells me what today’s high will be…”

      I think Drawbridge is still hiring, sounds like they’d love you.

  7. gadgetguy03 - 8 years ago

    Doesn’t Apple have an NDA for those that leave the company? Don’t get me wrong this gives further confirmation in my choice of technology provider as Apple however this does seem a little fishy.

    • r00fus1 - 8 years ago

      I doubt an NDA would cover this level of detail (i.e., nothing meaningful was described).

      • gadgetguy03 - 8 years ago

        Ah okay thanks for the clarification

  8. «Rather, it builds its database using identification numbers and creates anonymous profiles from those.»

    We need to redefine anonymous. Not being named no longer bears any resemblance to being unknown or private.

  9. John Smith - 8 years ago

    Sounds like it was right for Apple and this chap to go their separate ways if the doesn’t share their values..

    I’ll be quite open about it – one of the reasons I buy Apple is because of the business model: pay a premium on the hardware followed by no tracking/monitoring/surveillance.

    Consumers have Google/Android as a purchasing choice if they want to go down the route of ‘free’ services paid for with their personal information.

    Apple is totally correct to keep up the privacy stance.

  10. kplayaja - 8 years ago

    This is pretty good news!

  11. Leif Paul Ashley - 8 years ago

    Moral of the article: Avoid Drawbridge

    Got it… lol

  12. lenwej - 8 years ago

    Leaving Apple coupled with quotes like that might just be the best marketing the ex-marketing exec could have created for his former employer. How ironic.