Apple vs. Facebook: Privacy battle intensifies

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on January 29, 2021

The conflict between Apple and Facebook over data privacy and Apple’s latest privacy features has further intensified.

The CEOs of the tech giants have made public remarks over data privacy with conflicting views on the same.

Apple CEO Tim Cook on Thursday, in his speech at a Consumer Privacy and Data Protection conference criticised social media companies while condemning the “conspiracy theories juiced by algorithms.”

“Too many are still asking the question: how much can we get away with? When they need to be asking: What are the consequences?” the Apple CEO said in his speech as quoted by a Wall Street Journal report.

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data privacy

“If a business is built on misleading users, on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, then it does not deserve our praise — it deserves reform,” Cook said.

He further criticised this approach for leading to “polarisation,” “lost trust,” and “violence.”

In a separate tweet on the occasion of International Data Privacy Day, Cook tweeted, “#DataPrivacyDay comes at a time of great challenge, underscoring the critical role privacy and security play in our lives—from safeguarding your health & financial data to guarding against algorithms that perpetuate rampant misinformation. We need transparency and reform.”

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The tech mogul further discussed Apple’s new privacy tool while making it clear that Apple plans to move ahead with the latest iOS 14 update with enhanced privacy features.

“With Apple’s next beta update, App Tracking Transparency will require apps to get the user’s permission before tracking their data across apps or websites owned by other companies,” Apple has said in an official press release.

The tech giant last year also implemented its new “privacy nutrition label” feature. Just like a nutrition label displays what’s inside packed groceries, the label will include information on the types of information that is being collected from them within the app along with where and how it is being used by third-parties at a glance, it had said.

Competitors spar

Cook’s speech comes shortly after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg singled out the tech giant, labelling it Facebook’s biggest competitor at an earnings call.

“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. 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,” the Facebook CEO had said.

“Since I try to use these earnings calls to discuss aspects of business strategy that I think are important for investors to understand, I do want to highlight that we increasingly see Apple as one of our biggest competitors,” he further said, claiming how Apple leverages its iMessage tool.

“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 moves clearly track their competitive interests. I think this dynamic is important for people to understand because we and others are going to be up against this for the foreseeable future,” he said.

Published on January 29, 2021

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