Lately there has been much discussion about how Apple’s iPhone is not open, as opposed to Google’s Android which claims to be open. Throughout the conversation, one thing has gone missing, and that is what’s good for users and their data privacy.
Which would you prefer, an app which charges you a small amount of money, say $5 or $10, for a one-time download, and keeps your data securely only on your iPhone, and then alerts you when it shares it with another app or website? Or do you prefer an app which is free, but then freely shares your personal data with other apps and websites in order so that the publisher can make his initial investment back?
I would prefer the app which charges me money upfront and keeps my data private.
But most people have chosen the free apps which don’t charge money, then sell data to other 3rd party websites and companies without their knowledge. Then they act upset when they find out that their data has been sold, and that their privacy is not private at all.
My reaction is “What did you expect?”
When you pay for an app, there is an implicit agreement that it will work, and the publisher feels the need to protect the interests of the user who paid him/her. If the app was given away for free, there is no such implicit agreement and obligation. Because Google’s Marketplace is largely offering free apps in order to gain marketshare, there is little desire to vet the applications to check if they have backdoors which will violate user privacy.
But the Android camp doesn’t tell you this, since the vast majority of Android apps are given away for free. It’s like promiscuous unprotected sex for users. In contrast, iPhone apps are usually sold.
So yes, Android is open, but not exactly the way I’d like it to be. I would rather live with the rules Steve Jobs and Apple set.