What's Up With Apple: CODA, Less Privacy, iMessage Security and More

Over the weekend, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) spent some of its mountain of cash to acquire worldwide distribution rights to “CODA,” a film about a girl who is the “child of deaf adults,” hence the acronym. Apple reportedly paid something over $25 million for the film, which had shown at this year’s virtual Sundance Film Festival, edging out Amazon.

The deal caps a string of film projects that Apple has completed this year. The company is beefing up its film offerings on Apple TV+ in an effort to boost its market share above the paltry 3% it held in the fourth quarter.

Apple also paid more than $75 million to acquire “Emancipation” at last summer’s virtual Cannes Film Festival. That film is scheduled to begin production early this year, with Antoine Fuqua directing and starring Will Smith. Apple Studios also has agreed to finance and produce “Kitbag,” starring Joaquin Phoenix as Napoleon Bonaparte, in a film set to go into production early next year. The list goes on.

On the privacy front, Apple’s new anti-tracking feature has already set off alarms at Facebook, but maybe the social media giant doesn’t have much to worry about. According to a new survey from SellCell, a site where people can sell their used smartphones, nearly three-quarters of those surveyed would rather be tracked as they travel around the web than have to pay for content or features that are currently free.

In fact, more than half think that Apple asking whether or not you want to let an app track you “negatively impact[s] the user experience.” It seems that giving up personal information is less important than free.

In a similar vein, it appears that Apple has had about enough of hackers exploiting a number of holes in its iMessage chat app. A report published last week by Google’s Project Zero cited a report published in December by Toronto-based Citizen Lab indicating that Apple’s iPhone iOS operating system version 14 and higher has plugged a hole in iMessage that allowed an “invisible zero-click exploit” to inject a spyware program onto the personal phones belonging to 36 staff members at Al Jazeera.

A zero-click exploit is one that does not require the phone’s user either to click on or download anything in order to infect the device with a malware program. According to the Project Zero report, the changes Apple made in iOS 14 “are probably very close to the best that could’ve been done given the need for backwards compatibility, and they should have a significant impact on the security of iMessage and the platform as a whole.”

Finally, the European Union’s executive branch, the European Commission (EC), has filed an appeal with the EU’s General Court seeking a reversal of the court’s July decision overturning an EC ruling that Apple owed the EU some €13 billion (about $15.8 billion currently) in taxes for its European operations. The EC originally levied the fine in 2016, demanding payment by January of 2017.

The appeal is based on the EC’s contention that the General Court judges used “contradictory reasoning” and failed to consider the EC’s written objections to overturn the original fine.