Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told employees close to him, “we have to hurt Apple” for comments from Apple CEO Tim Cook that Zuckerberg described as “extremely smooth.”
This and other insights into an ongoing rift between the two companies appeared in a report in The Wall Street Journal this weekend. The article notes that based on first-hand reports, Zuckerberg has interpreted Cook and Apple’s public criticism of Facebook’s privacy policies, directly or indirectly, as personal insults.
For example, Cook publicly responded to Facebook’s 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal by saying that such a scandal would never happen to Apple because Apple doesn’t treat its customers like products. When asked what he would do in Zuckerberg’s position, he said, “I wouldn’t be in this situation,” calling Facebook’s approach “an invasion of privacy.” This was one of the comments that led Zuckerberg to view Apple as an adversary.
Before that, in 2017, Zuckerberg and Cook met to try to iron out an already shaky relationship, the article says, but the meeting “resulted in a tense standoff.” Since then, the relationship has soured.
The disputes drew new attention last year when Apple announced plans to require iOS apps to ask users for permission to track them with IDFA (ID For Advertisers) tags in apps and websites. The policy change is already reflected in Apple’s terms of service for app developers, but it won’t be enforced until early spring, after the release of iOS 14.5.
Facebook, whose business model and competitive advantage depend on this kind of tracking, responded by telling investors to expect declining revenues — and by running full-page newspaper ads declaring the change would hurt small businesses.
Furthermore, Facebook has been investigating to file a lawsuit against Apple, alleging that the smartphone maker’s policies are anti-competitive.
The Wall Street Journal story also notes that Facebook directly aided Epic Games’ battle against Apple over a separate but loosely related concern over Apple’s hold on the App Store and that Facebook is “camping against Apple” with government officials. and antitrust regulators.
Apple has tried to position itself as the Big Tech company on the privacy side because its business model is not based on tracking like Facebook or Google’s.
But there are other dimensions at play as well. Both Cook and Zuckerberg have said they view augmented and mixed reality as “the next computing platform,” and Facebook and Apple are on track to compete more directly with their products in the future.
Facebook has agreed to follow Apple’s rules that require users to sign up for tracking in its iOS apps, but it has tested ways to anticipate Apple’s required prompt to get users to sign up.
Meanwhile, both companies are subject to extensive lawsuits and investigations for alleged anti-competitive practices, albeit mostly for very different reasons.