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Apple Vision Pro: The Next Chapter in Mass Surveillance?

I have been using Apple products since I was a teenager. I’m middle-aged now. I still enjoy the ease of use and friction-less experience of the company’s products. But privacy has become an increasingly touchy subject with every digital product as companies seek larger profits from their users. While Apple has done a lot better than other tech behemoths in protecting privacy rights, there are many ways that the company’s products can be used to track location, usage, and much more.

Now the company has released the Apple Vision Pro. While most reviews have focused on the weight, lack of apps, and plain weirdness of the experience of the headset, few have focused on the implications for privacy. Thankfully, The Washington Post’s Geoffrey Fowler, raises critical questions. The headline of his must-read review calls the headset a “privacy mess” and he goes on to write:

I’m pretty sure Apple does not want to be known for creating the ultimate surveillance machine. But to make magical things happen inside its goggles, apps need loads of information about what’s happening to the user and around them. Apple has done more than rivals like Meta to limit access to some of this data, but developers are going to keep pressing for more.

Fowler points out that, in order to work, Vision Pro needs to map your space and body, making it extremely attractive to marketers and other third parties who may want to promote products and services. Yes, you read that right: the device all tracks information about your body movements. This isn’t as innocuous as you might think, Fowler reports:

Information about how you’re moving and what you’re looking at “can give significant insights not only to the person’s unique identification, but also their emotions, their characteristics, their behaviors and their desires in a way that we have not been able to before,” says Jameson Spivak, a senior policy analyst at the Future of Privacy Forum.

Alright, so what is to stop a third-party app, say a social media giant, from tapping into this data so that they perfect algorithms to promote influencers to appear in your living room and sell you the exact product that you need at that exact moment? Sounds fantastic. A little too fantastic? Unfortunately, Apple declined to answer questions about privacy from Fowler.

Photo by Igor Omilaev on Unsplash.

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