Advertisers: Amazon, Apple User Data a 'Gold Mine'

John Lister's picture

Most stories regarding privacy on the Internet involve complaints that tech firms go too far when divulging personal details of its users. In a twist of irony, however, advertisers are now complaining that Amazon and Apple are far too protective of their customer details.

Several major advertising groups have told industry magazine 'Ad Age' that the two firms are missing out on ad revenue because they refuse to share personal customer information to the same extent as the likes of Google and Facebook. (Source:

The advertisers say that the more details they have about customers, the more likely they are to buy ad slots. That's because they can better target their ads based on factors such as the age, income, location, gender and interests of individual users.

Amazon and Apple Cite Privacy Concerns

According to advertisers, both Apple and Amazon have levels of detail about customers that would be extremely attractive to ad agencies, but refuse to hand it over, citing privacy concerns.

In Apple's case, the sheer volume of information it has about its users frustrates advertisers because they can't access it. One unnamed source said that in terms of attractiveness to potential advertisers, Apple is "the best-looking girl at the party, forced to wear a bag over her head."

Meanwhile, Amazon's treasure trove of information includes which products customers buy, and which products are looked at and then ultimately decide against buying. One executive said it was particularly frustrating that Amazon refuses to tell advertisers what items customers have put into their shopping carts.

According to advertisers, the decision to be so protective of their customer's data is costing both Amazon and Apple a fortune in lost ad sales. Ad Age notes that Google takes in $17 billion a year in advertising in the US, compared with $614 million for Amazon.

Google and Facebook More Reliant On Ad Sales

Of course, it's not simply a case of comparing companies with similar attributes.

Both Apple and Amazon have different core businesses; Amazon sells tangible products ranging from groceries to oddities, while Apple sells hardware, software, books, and music. In contrast to Google and Facebook, advertising makes up the vast majority of their revenue.

That difference doesn't mean Apple and Amazon can afford to pass up the opportunity to maximize ad revenue. It also makes it more important that it earns trust among its customers who will be handing over money, unlike with Google and Facebook where most services are free to use. (Source:

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DavidFB's picture

It's one thing to use an advertising model for funding an organization. It's quite another to found the organization on capturing user info and selling it to 3rd parties. It's an approach Facebook pioneered and organizations like Google are drifting towards to their profit but ultimate detriment. They're fast loosing user trust. Just witness the various services and browser plugins people use now to avoid tracking. (not really very successfully for the most part, but still)

Organizations like Apple and Amazon have to be very clear about why we give our information to them. Customers lives are not a commodity to be sold and the disrespectful attitude the industry is developing is also not in their long-term interest. Profits have apparently blinded them. Greed makes for lemmings.

One only has to study a little of the history of tech to recognize how loss of trust creates a new market that someone will address.