The Basics of the Conflict Between Facebook and Apple

Published on February 2, 2021

Two of the biggest companies in the tech world are in the midst of an intense battle of words. On the consumer end, Facebook and Apple go hand-in-hand, as millions of people set up the Facebook app on their iPhones. On the business end, there is a massive conflict of ideals over data mining that has been brewing for quite some time, with each company’s respective CEO’s taking subtle—and not so subtle—shots at each other in the media.

Most recently, Apple CEO Tim Cook made a comment without specifically naming a target, although with context in mind it is clear that cook was taking a very targeted shot at Facebook while utilizing some plausible deniability.

At the Computers, Privacy and Data Protection conference, Cook commented on apps that utilized personal information without taking social consequences into account. He said that in the pursuit of more clicks, some apps feed into “conspiracy theories and violent incitement simply because of their high rates of engagement.”

Cook continued his critique of the practice by saying, “At a moment of rampant disinformation and conspiracy theories juiced by algorithms, we can no longer turn a blind eye to a theory of technology that says all engagement is good engagement — the longer the better — and all with the goal of collecting as much data as possible.”

Cook did not call out Facebook by name in his comments, but he did not have to. The role that Facebook played in the recent storming of the capitol building has been widely discussed and is fresh in everyone’s minds. With that context, Cook continued his critique by saying, “It is long past time to stop pretending that this approach doesn’t come with a cost — of polarization, of lost trust and, yes, of violence. A social dilemma cannot be allowed to become a social catastrophe.”

The way that Cook chastised Facebook prompted a response from the social media company, issuing a statement that seemed to not confront Cook’s point, but continue the war of words anyway. The statement accused “Apple [of] behaving anti-competitively by using their control of the App Store to benefit their bottom line at the expense of app developers and small businesses.”

That critique by Facebook expands on the stance that the Mark Zuckerberg run company has been taking throughout this conflict. Zuckerberg’s critiques of Apple have mainly been focused on Apple monopolizing the marketing and what he considers as their exorbitant pricing. Zuckerberg has once tried to change the general perception of Apple’s business practices by saying, “It’s important that we don’t all get Stockholm syndrome and let the companies that work hard to charge you more convince you that they actually care more about you.”

While Zuckerberg’s critiques of Apple have been somewhat scattershot, Cook’s critiques are highly focused. The Apple CEO has been critical of Facebook’s practices since 2014, saying “If they’re making money mainly by collecting gobs of personal data, I think you have a right to be worried.”

It will be interesting to see how this clash of tech titans will affect the every day consumer. As of now, both companies have kept the battle in the press, but who knows how long it will be until they take this to their business practices?

Justin Shamlou is a Senior Staff Writer at Grit Daily. Based in Miami, he covers international news, consumer brands, tech, art/entertainment, and events. Justin started his career covering the electronic music industry, working as the Miami correspondent for Magnetic Mag and US Editor for Data Transmission.

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