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Apple's privacy stance crumbles as we learn how much it makes from Google Search

Suddenly, all Apple's grandstanding about user privacy and ad tracking doesn't seem so genuine.

Published onNovember 13, 2023

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Oliver Cragg / Android Authority
  • At the ongoing Justice Department antitrust trial, a defendant revealed Apple’s search revenue share with Google.
  • Apparently, Apple makes as much as 36% of all ad-tracking revenue through Google Search on the mobile version of Safari.
  • That is likely billions of dollars each year, making Apple’s stances on user privacy sound hypocritical.

The US Department of Justice is in the middle of an antitrust lawsuit against Google. The Justice Department accuses Google of using anti-competitive practices to keep its dominance in the search and advertising markets.

On the stand today (via Bloomberg), an economics expert working for Google, Kevin Murphy, disclosed that Apple and Google have a revenue share agreement for Google Search remaining the default search engine on the mobile version of Safari, which appears on the iPhone. This agreement nets Apple as much as 36% of revenue from searches conducted in Safari, which is likely billions of dollars each year.

In other words, Google shares with Apple up to 36% of the billions it makes from tracking iPhone users’ search habits for advertising purposes.

As far as the Department of Justice is concerned, this is proof that Google is anti-competitive. However, it also exposes Apple’s hypocritical stance on data tracking. On numerous occasions, Apple has hyped up its stance as a privacy-first company that doesn’t have a stake in tracking the habits of its users. Apple CEO Tim Cook once said that user tracking is “totally out of control.” Shortly thereafter, Apple rolled out the ability for iPhone users to block data tracking within applications.

This all makes Cook’s statements and Apple’s initiatives here seem pretty hypocritical. On the public side, Apple is talking big about how it’s all about user privacy, and that data tracking is terrible. But, behind the scenes, the company is secretly making billions of dollars off Google searches on iPhones.

It is clear that both Google and Apple don’t want the public to know this information. When Mr. Murphy disclosed the 36% number on the stand, John Schmidtlein, Google’s leading litigator, visibly cringed. Both companies have also declined to comment on the situation.