Steve Jobs once promised a “thermonuclear war” against Google. Here in 2018, it seems more like Apple is in more of a Cold War with fellow tech giant Facebook — based on recent comments made by both companies.
While we’ve argued before that the congressional investigation of Facebook only helps Apple, it seems that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is doing his best to hurt Apple, too. Here’s how.
During Mark Zuckerberg’s first-ever congressional hearing yesterday, Associated Press photographer Andy Harnik managed to get a photo of Zuckerberg’s notes. In addition to comments about whether or not Facebook is doing enough to protect user data, and whether it’s getting to big, there’s also a reference to Apple.
Photo of Zuck’s notes, by AP’s @andyharnik pic.twitter.com/wF0WAkDdI4
— Stefan Becket (@becket) April 10, 2018
“Lots of stories about apps misusing Apple data, never seen Apple notify people,” the comment reads. Zuckerberg has yet to bring the point up as part of his testimony.
It’s not clear exactly what it refers to, but Apple has not been immune to data breaches — although none as damaging as the Cambridge Analytica scandal currently affecting Facebook.
In 2015, around 225,000 Apple accounts were reportedly stolen by malware on jailbroken iPhones, in what was claimed to be “one of the largest known thefts of its kind.” In some cases, this data was then used to make unauthorized purchases.
There have also been reports in China of Apple IDs being sold on the black market, often stolen by hackers and acquired from methods like phishing schemes. Last year, 22 people were arrested in Zhejiang, China for selling this data for prices ranging from $1.50 to $26 per user.
Different business models
Along with Amazon and Google, Facebook and Apple are two of the four tech giants currently racing to be the first $1 trillion company in history. Nonetheless, both companies have very different business models. Notably, as Tim Cook has repeatedly pointed out, Apple doesn’t base its business around selling user data. While its privacy-first approach has still caused it headaches (such as was the case with the FBI standoff), this fact means that Apple is far more likely to weather the current storm without damage.
When Cook was recently asked what he would have done if he was in Facebook’s situation he answered, “I wouldn’t be in this situation.” Cook has also called for more regulation to be put in place. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has dismissed the comments as “glib.” (Steve Jobs actually warned Zuckerberg about the risk of abusing user data way back in 2010.)
Ultimately, perhaps Zuck simply hopes to draw on a bit of the goodwill that exists around Apple. Despite problems like the ongoing concerns about supply chain conditions, Apple has worked hard to be recognized as a “force for good” in the world. Tim Cook was even briefly considered as a possible running mate for Hillary Clinton, which cements the regards in which he’s held by the political establishment.
Facebook, on the other hand, doesn’t have the kind of goodwill that Apple has built up over the decades.
While I’d still be surprised to see any lasting regulation that damages Facebook’s business, it seems that it’s taking no chances. If there’s the chance to glom onto a possible double standard that’s protecting Apple, it’s worth a shot. At the very least, such deflection could take a bit of the heat temporarily off Facebook.
Whether that strategy proves effective is another question entirely.