Facebook and Apple…Can't We All Just Get Along?

The battle of two of the most powerful corporations in the world over your browsing history.


Photo by Liks Digital on Unsplash


In this corner: you have one multi-billion dollar corporation that is being sued for its egregious violations and utter disregard for anti-trust laws in this country. And in the other corner: we have another multi-billion dollar company that has built an ecosystem so tight and with such stringent requirements for developers to the point of ostracism, under intense scrutiny as well, but for its App Store policies. So of course they are fighting one another. Of course. You don’t get in hot water with the government for a blatant disregard of anti-trust policies, by actually giving a “damn” about the consumer. Because taking the time to examine these policies and try to reform them, would be too much like, uh. RIGHT. Let’s just fight one another instead.



Disdain Explained.


To be fair, the two companies in question, Apple and Facebook, and their two CEOs haven’t necessarily been friendly to one another for years. Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Tim Cook (Apple) have been adversaries for quite some time. Not personally knowing them, I can’t speak to how long truly, but it appears as if, at least publicly the two have been feuding since 2014 when Cook criticized FaceBook’s business model. Speaking with Charlie Rose in 2014, Cook took shots at not only Facebook’s business model, but Google’s as well. “I think everyone has to ask, how do companies make their money? Follow the money,” Cook said. “And if they’re making money mainly by collecting gobs of personal data, I think you have a right to be worried. And you should really understand what’s happening to that data.” True, True. But Cook wasn’t done.


After the interview the shots kept coming in an open letter he posted to Apple’s website:

“A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realize that when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product. But at Apple, we believe a great customer experience shouldn’t come at the expense of your privacy. Our business model is very straightforward: We sell great products. We don’t build a profile based on your email content or web browsing habits to sell to advertisers. We don’t “monetize” the information you store on your iPhone or in iCloud. And we don’t read your email or your messages to get information to market to you. Our software and services are designed to make our devices better. Plain and simple.”
 

I’m an admitted Apple fangirl, and while I can’t say they can’t do anything wrong, they are VERY committed to privacy. Extremely serious about it. It’s one of the main reasons I have so many of their products, (yes the integration, the style, the ease, etc. but those aren’t the point of this article). But Really Tim Cook? You threw shots at Facebook and Google, big shots. And like any other person would do when they are under fire and have the weapons in their arsenal that Facebook employs, Zuckerberg shot back. In a Time article titled, Inside FaceBook’s plan to Wire the World, author Lev Grossman suggests that Facebook’s users are paying for the service, just with their attention and their personal information instead of cash, in response to Zuckerberg’s intimation that they aim to connect everyone in the world, and they are awesome for offering it for free. Grossman notes Zuckerberg’s visible irritation before he responds noting Tim Cook’s aforementioned statement: “A frustration I have is that a lot of people increasingly seem to equate an advertising business model with somehow being out of alignment with your customers,” Zuckerberg told Time’s, Lev Grossman. “I think it’s the most ridiculous concept. What, you think because you’re paying Apple that you’re somehow in alignment with them? If you were in alignment with them, then they’d make their products a lot cheaper!”


Yeah, these two, really don’t like each other, or at least what each other’s companies “stand for.” I have to hand it to Apple tho, they are at least trying to dial back on some of their practices, (perhaps learning a lesson from the legal issues FaceBook is going thru at the moment), and are changing some of the “stringent” App Store rules and loosening its death grip on developers. The 30 percent cut they take of the transactions that occur in the App Store? Those remain. (You gotta make money right?) Which by the way, is the only place you can get apps for your iPhone, which Apple controls completely, but I digress.



 

A Response? Sort Of?


Given these two companies’ history, and open animosity towards one another, it should come as no surprise that Facebook is pissed that Apple is changing the way they present App privacy to the consumer. Apple is taking the step of giving the consumer more control over their data, and what they want to share with third party apps like Facebook. Sometime early next year, Apple will ask users if they want to “opt in” to accept the third party being able to track their digital activity, right now the default is you are getting tracked and you have to jump through several hula hoops to opt-out. Guess who relies on tracking and mining your data to sell you that “my little pony pink bike” your kid was googling on your phone when you weren’t looking in a “targeted ad?” I’m sure you know, but I’ll just tell you, it’s FaceBook.


The best part about this recent skirmish over privacy between the companies, at least to me, is FaceBook’s response. Facebook took out two ads over the past few days, to “stand up to Apple.” Which, ok, if they were taking a stance because of the ginormous hit this move will take to their business I’d understand the response. Agree with it? No. Understand, yes. But that’s not the stance they’ve taken, they are “speaking up for small businesses. FaceBook’s take on the recent privacy changes is that they will disproportionately harm small businesses because they rely on personalized ads to reach customers. Not only did they take out full-page ads to support this, but they also launched a WEBSITE.


Found in a banner at the bottom of the website: “We will continue our efforts to support your business through these changes, introducing new ads features and measurement solutions despite the limitations announced by Apple. We encourage you to share this information and continue speaking up for small businesses around the world.” Because a company who made $70 billion last year from advertising will NOT be impacted “disproportionately” by this change? CLEARLY. When I first read that, I could not stop laughing. I don’t know what the appropriate response is, or what you may have done, but I found it hilarious that this is the position they chose in response. How tone-deaf can you be? Really? Or more importantly, how dumb do you think the average user of your site is? Your company’s primary source of revenue is advertising. Primarily advertising that targets the average user, which you get by mining data! And you thought it was smart to come at Apple with, you’re hurting small businesses, without mentioning how much it will decimate your current business model?


Apple, being on the right side here, didn’t take out full-page ads in response to FaceBook’s assault. They just released a few statements. This one is pretty self-explanatory and gets right to the point. “Users should know when their data is being collected and shared across other apps and websites — and they should have the choice to allow that or not,” Apple said in a statement. “App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 does not require Facebook to change its approach to tracking users and creating targeted advertising, it simply requires they give users a choice.” Mic Drop.



 

Yes, users should have the ability to control their data. Period. No explanations are necessary. Transparency in my book has never been wrong. Be honest and upfront with me. Tell me what you’re doing. But yes, I would have a problem if I was FaceBook considering the privacy disclaimer that is now visible in the App Store: (it’s a lot). Facebook is all up in your “sugar honey iced tea.”





IMAGE: Screenshot from APP Store



IMAGE: Screenshot from APP Store



IMAGE: Screenshot from APP Store



IMAGE: Screenshot from APP Store



IMAGE: Screenshot from APP Store



IMAGE: Screenshot from APP Store




 

So what do you do when it’s round 12, you’re down, the referee is two counts away from calling a TKO? You take out this ad:





I have no more words. But hey, if you want to see what Facebook and other companies like themselves are doing with your data, after updating to IOS 14.3, go to the App Store, scroll down to the Privacy section, and take a look. I have to warn you, though, it’s a little ugly.


For now, Apple has no plans on changing its plans for tracking notifications and continuing to advocate for online privacy.

“We believe that this is a simple matter of standing up for our users,” Apple said Well said Apple, well said.


Thanks for Listening.



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