Will Tim Cook’s Apple become a leading Ethical Data Corporation?

Paul Hinks

Apple WatchWhen Tim Cook inherited Apple, it was as much an opportunity to fail rather than an opportunity to succeed in re-inventing to Corporation through transformative technologies in the spirit of Steve Job’s legacy. The proposed strategic move into Big Data may prove more significant even than the development of the much- anticipated Apple Watch

Apple’s ‘spring forward’ event scheduled for 9th March 2015 will showcase Apple’s upcoming innovations – including Apple’s much-anticipated watch . This is an important moment for Tim Cook.

Not just a digital timepiece

Tim Cook’s reputation as a leader who delivers iterations of various technologies introduced by his  predecessor is intact – its fiscal Q1 2015 earnings were $74.6 billion in revenue; $18 billion in  net profit. Can Apple’s leader succeed in delivering new technology which will be reflected upon as  being truly disruptive?

Apple’s smartwatch is likely to be more than just a digital timepiece. Speculation in the press suggests accelerometers, thermometers, barometers, altimeters will capture data about our every movement – where we walk each day, how far we walk, how many calories we burn, our general fitness levels. In summary, a data generation device.

Big Data, Data Centres, Electronic Banking?

Apple’s future may not be just about the iPhone and iPad or even iTunes. Harvesting our data, mining that data, then profiling the data will provide commercial opportunities.  We should read deeper into the recent announcement reported by Reuters that Apple will invest $1.9 Billion in two European data centres:

Apple Inc (said it would spend 1.7 billion euros ($1.9 billion) to build two data centres in Europe that would be entirely powered by renewable energy and create hundreds of jobs. The company said the centres, in Ireland and Denmark, will power Apple’s online services, including the iTunes Store, App Store, iMessage, Maps and Siri for customers across Europe.

The investment is set to be evenly divided between the two countries, with the Irish government confirming that 850 million euros would be spent in Ireland. The two data centres are expected to begin operations in 2017. “This significant new investment represents Apple’s biggest project in Europe to date,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement.

Apple’s investment in Ireland and Denmark signals a commitment from Apple to take “Big Data” and data privacy seriously. Building large data centres within Europe to securely store data generated on European soil speaks directly to wider data privacy concerns – it potentially also aligns Apple to banking standards and governance should Apple’s electronic wallet concept succeed.

Will Tim Cook’s Apple become a leading Ethical Data Corporation?

Apple’s San Francisco event on 9th March is significant and represents more than a showpiece for Apple’s smartwatch. Perhaps Apple’s smartwatch will grab the headlines, its functionality accurately documented by the press. However, the San Francisco event may well provide deeper insight into Tim Cook’s vision of a more complex and complete Apple ecosystem – one which will capture large amounts of our personal data.

Tim Cook’s incentive to earn an extra half a billion dollars appears less significant when compared to the bigger issues of data privacy and how those with the knowledge and understanding will leverage commercial opportunities from mining ‘our’ data.

An array of date and timestamps, coupled with descriptive data creates a ‘big brother’ dimension to the situation. The excitement for commercial gain and share price upside for Apple investors should be tempered by the real potential for abuse, not just by Apple, but also by other third party ‘bad actors’. Tim Cook and Apple should seize the opportunity to lead and shape how our personal data is managed and controlled, and in doing so set standards which others can follow.

Intrinsic Motivation rules, OK

According to Yahoo Finance, Tim Cook is in line to receive half a billion dollars’ worth of stock if he remains as chief executive and hits targets over the next six years. A great incentive, but unlikely to be the main motivational factor.






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