Apple PR's dirty little secret

Summary:Apple PR maintains a blacklist of journalists that it refuses to talk to. This includes any media outlet that posts anything even remotely negative or heaven help you, a rumor.

Apple's public relations department is notoriously tight-lipped and only responds to a limited subset of the mainstream media, and usually only the outlets that write positive things about its products.

If you dare to write an unflattering piece about Apple or -- heaven forbid -- post a rumor you're almost guaranteed to lose your access to Apple. I know this firsthand because I'm the poster child of Apple's PR blacklist. (I was part of a precedent-setting legal case with Apple in 2005, which I won on appeal in 2007 -- thanks to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.)

Say what you will about my work, but I call 'em like I see 'em.

I write good things about Apple, I write bad things about Apple and I also publish rumors when I believe that they're credible or plausible. I write about things that I find interesting and about topics that will benefit my readers. Sometimes Apple likes what I write other times it doesn't. Apple and I have classic love/hate relationship.

But one thing's for sure, I'm not an Apple cheerleader. If like reading puff pieces about Apple there are a number of websites and blogs that will gladly oblige. Or heck, just dial up apple.com/pr.

Case in point: On February 7 when Arun Thampi posted on his blog that Path was sneakily uploading iPhone user's address books to its server -- without permission -- I called and emailed Apple. Apple didn't reply. Then and I blogged about it.

On February 8 when Dustin Curtis blogged that Apple makes a standard practice of approving apps that upload the entire contents of your iOS address book to developer’s servers I again called and emailed Apple. Apple didn't reply. Then I blogged about it.

Later. Rinse. Repeat.

Then I got an idea. Since Apple PR never responds to my voicemails or emails, maybe they'd respond to the guys that do have access. So I contacted several prominent Apple pundits (who shall remain nameless) that are known for their access to Apple (some of whom get replies from Apple "every time") and I asked them to enquire about Apple's stance on enforcing its policy on address book uploads.

And you know what? None of them would do it.

(Update: ironically there's a couple of exclusive stories out today about Mac OS 10.8/Mountain Lion which certain members of the Mac Illuminati had access to a week early.)

Why? They'd probably say that Apple wouldn't comment. But someone's got to ask if they expect Apple to reply. I mean come on! Apple's not going to press release its shady developers that steal your contacts.

The fact of the matter is that most journos with access to Apple are afraid of losing it. They're afraid of asking the tough questions. They're afraid of getting blacklisted. Like me.

So then I contacted the Wall Street Journal.

There's a prominent columnist at WSJ that has lots of access to Apple. Arguably the most access to Apple. Apple loves the Journal. Apple sends controlled leaks to the Journal. Apple gives unreleased product to the Journal. Surely, Apple would have to respond to the Journal. Right?

Well guess what? Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr replied to AllThingsD today about the issue of developers stealing your contacts without permission. (More on that later)

Gee? I wonder why?

I'll tell you: AllThingsD is a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Jones & Company Inc., which is a member of The Wall Street Journal’s Digital Network (which includes WSJ.com, MarketWatch, Barron's, and SmartMoney).

It's simple really. Apple needs the Journal. The Journal doesn't need Apple. And the Journal's not afraid of getting on Apple's PR blacklist -- because it would never happen.

Other wags with access, but without the clout of the Journal are probably afraid of getting blacklisted if they probe around too much -- or ask the tough questions.

My point is that if Apple PR actually read blogs and responded to queries from bloggers things like Address-gate might not explode into giant issues that end up in the Wall Street Journal. Apple could have nipped it in the bud a week sooner by simply replying to my email or voicemail with something to the effect of "yes, we're aware of the issue and we're looking into it."

Instead, Apple makes a conscious point of ignoring certain journalists hoping that unsavory issues like Address-gate blow over and that no one will notice. Well guess what, I'm persistent. And if Apple doesn't reply, I'll contact the people that I know at the Journal -- or my Congressman.

And before you cry "sour grapes!" consider this. I've been blacklisted by Apple for over 10 years. I never get invited, I never get replies. I'm long over it. This doesn't have anything to do with me. It's about you and your privacy. I called and emailed Apple PR because I care about my (and your) private contacts and I wanted to know why Apple isn't enforcing its own privacy policies.

If you don't care about developers stealing your contacts, that's fine. But I do.

Most wags desperately want their coveted invitation to Apple's iPad 3 event next month which they'll proudly post on their blogs. But they also know that they might lose their seat at the event if they upset the Applecart.

As for me, I'll be following the iPad 3 liveblogs like everyone else.

Topics: Apple

About

Jason D. O'Grady developed an affinity for Apple computers after using the original Lisa, and this affinity turned into a bona-fide obsession when he got the original 128 KB Macintosh in 1984. He started writing one of the first Web sites about Apple (O'Grady's PowerPage) in 1995 and is considered to be one of the fathers of blogging.... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.