CES 2019: Can Apple’s Billboard Shift The Conversation To Consumer Privacy?

If Apple has its way, privacy will be a topic of conversation at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The tech giant posted a giant billboard outside Springhill Suites Marriott Hotel in Las Vegas with a message that plays on the infamous Vegas catchphrase: “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.”

The poster, reportedly put up in early January, comes at a time when data sharing and retargeting have become mainstream issues for consumers

“I think if you’re at CES and not thinking about what this technology means for consumer privacy and data usage then you’re making a big mistake,” Mindshare’s Chief Instigation Officer Joe Maceda told AdExchanger. “Almost every single device we see on the floor is generating data on behalf of a consumer.”

With GDPR enacted in Europe and the California Consumer Privacy Act passed in the States, consumers are becoming more literate around cookies and retargeting techniques, Maceda added. Meanwhile Apple, struggling recently with declining iPhone sales, is appealing to consumers’ growing concerns around data sharing.

To be fair, iOS apps have made headlines for misusing consumer data. In August 2017, iOS app AccuWeather was criticized for sending location data to a data monetization firm called Reveal Mobile, even when sharing permissions were turned off. And in early January, the city of Los Angeles filed a lawsuit against IBM’s Weather Channel app, which is available on iOS.

So as much as Apple claims that data on its devices stay on its devices, third-party apps on iPhones, including Facebook, Google Maps and more, have the ability to share user data like location, which can and often is used by advertisers.

Apple’s billboard shows tech companies are beginning to acknowledge consumers’ concerns around privacy (if only for their own marketing purposes).

“The question is, will the line move more,” Adam Heimlich, SVP of media at Gale Partners, told AdExchanger. “There is an invisible line between opt in and opt out. Previously, almost the entire population was automatically opted in to location tracking and there wasn’t much noise about it. That line has moved where now, there are a bunch of people asking to be opted out.”

At the very least, Apple’s giant billboard will make for interesting cocktail hour conversation at CES.

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