The equation between Apple and Facebook is apparently at a tipping point right now and might soon evolve into a long-drawn court battle over anti-trust allegations. After taking potshots at each other for a while – with Facebook even pushing full-page newspaper ads to make its point – over an iOS privacy update that could hurt Facebook’s ad-tracking business severely, the social media giant is ready to duke it out against Apple in court by filing an anti-trust lawsuit. In fact, The Information reports that Facebook has been preparing an anti-trust case against Apple for a while now and might finally go ahead with the legal proceedings.
“With the aid of outside legal counsel, Facebook for months has been preparing an antitrust lawsuit against Apple that would allege the iPhone-maker abused its power in the smartphone market by forcing app developers to abide by App Store rules that Apple’s own apps don’t have to follow, according to two people with direct knowledge of Facebook’s efforts,” the report says, This would be the second major anti-trust battle for Apple after Fortnite developer Epic Games dragged the company into a lawsuit over what it claims exorbitant App Store charges and the policy around in-app payments.
In the case of Facebook though, the report mentions that despite harboring extreme objection to Apple’s privacy updates, the company may ultimately decide against filing an anti-trust lawsuit. Facebook is reportedly facing some heat from its employees who are questioning Facebook’s stance against Apple. Previously, Facebook employees had internally questioned – and criticized – the company’s pro-business approach as it tried to present itself as the champion of small businesses on its platform, while Apple took the side of user privacy and talked about giving them a choice whether they want to be tracked and served personalized ads.
Apple’s claims about privacy are misleading: Mark Zuckerberg
As Facebook declared its financial results during its Q4 2020 earnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg landed a few direct attacks at Apple, calling it one of the company’s biggest competitors and how its claims about privacy are lopsided. Zuckerberg also claimed that WhatsApp is clearly superior to iMessage when it comes to privacy, as the Facebook-owned instant messaging platform offers end-to-end encryption by default.
“We have a lot of competitors who make claims about privacy that are often misleading. Apple recently released so-called nutrition labels which focus largely on metadata that apps collect rather than the privacy and security of people’s actual messages,” Zuckerberg said during his lengthy opening remark. “But iMessage stores non-end-to-end encrypted backups of your messages by default unless you disable iCloud, so Apple and governments have the ability to access most people’s messages. So when it comes to what matters most — protecting people’s messages, I think that WhatsApp is clearly superior.”
Zuckerberg also made it clear that his company sees Apple as a direct competitor, and that the latter is trying to choke other platforms and depriving them of ad-based revenue opportunities to put the focus on its own apps and services. “Apple has every incentive to use their dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps and other apps work, which they regularly do to preference their own. This impacts the growth of millions of businesses around the world, including with the upcoming iOS14 changes, many small businesses will no longer be able to reach their customers with targeted ads. Apple may say that they’re doing this to help people, but the 4 moves clearly track their competitive interests,” the Facebook chief added.
Tim Cook fires back with veiled shots at Facebook
While Zuckerberg went on an offensive against Apple during Facebook’s earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook had a few words of his own to say during the 14th Computers, Privacy & Data Protection (CPDP) International Conference. Even though Cook didn’t namedrop Facebook, it was quite evident in whose directions his remarks about privacy and exploitative business strategies were headed.
“If a business is built on misleading users, on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform,” Cook said. The Apple CEO also targeted the role of social media platforms and the inherent algorithms for the spread of misinformation, and how it often bears a catastrophic outcome, including violence. You can listen to Cook’s entire speech starting at the 3:40 mark in the video below: