Apple was first to toss down the gauntlet, inferring, if not outright saying Google was not a safe place to surf. Specifically, Apple CEO Tim Cook said when “online services” are “offered for free” (read: Google) the user is not the customer – he or she is the product.
Well, it didn’t take very long for Google to pick that challenge up. In a conversation with CNN, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said, “We have always been the leader in security and encryption. Our systems are far more secure and encrypted than any other, including Apple. They're catching up, which is great.”
Cook fired back, insisting that at Apple: “…we believe a great customer experience shouldn't come at the expense of your privacy.”
Google countered by reminding Cook that the company “works extremely hard” to protect information inputted by its customers. Protect from whom, the question begs. Well, advertisers, the government, and of course, hackers. Schmidt finished his commentary with a not too subtle jab at Apple’s recent missteps. “Someone didn’t brief ‘him’ correctly on Google’s policies. It’s unfortunate for him.”
This exchange came on the heels of a release from Google revealing a system by which Google users are able to completely encrypt emails. Further, Android phones will be “encrypted by default” in the next iteration. Erasing one more advantage the iPhone currently has over its closest rivals.
The encryption news come right on time for a general public plagued by security breaches and security concerns every time they log online. The general public may not act like it, but web security is never far from their minds. With the new encryption, government agencies and law enforcement will have a tougher time “seeing” the content stored in your email and smartphone.
Then, in what may have been seen as a bit of well-deserved piling on, Google pointed out not only the massive hacking scandals but also the celebrity nude photo leaks that have been connected to compromised iPhones. Wink-wink, nudge-nudge.
Overall, the Cold War style PR exchange between the two chief execs was definitely a win in the column for Google, which didn’t really need another one.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.