Multimillionaire Fight: Facebook’s Zuckerberg And Apple’s Tim Cook Battle Over Data Privacy

Eric Lieberman | Tech and Law Reporter

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg responded sharply to Apple CEO Tim Cook’s recent statements that his company doesn’t care about privacy of its users.

Speaking to Recode’s Kara Swisher who asked what he would do if he were in Zuckerberg’s shoes last week, Cook responded: “I wouldn’t be in this situation.”

Cook also said that Zuckerberg, through the actions or inaction of Facebook as a whole, has essentially invited government oversight into the social media industry, and how, despite usual reservations around federal oversight, it may be necessary now.

“I think the best regulation is no regulation, is self-regulation,” Cook asserted, according to Recode. “However, I think we’re beyond that here.”

He also added that privacy “is a human right” and a “civil liberty,” but implied that since Facebook is a free service, it turns its users into products. In other words, because Apple makes money off of devices and other services, it doesn’t get involved in breaching customers’ privacy expectations, Cook argues. (RELATED: Power And Billions Of Dollars: Apple’s Deal With Communist China, And Why They Did It)

“You know, I find that argument, that if you’re not paying that somehow we can’t care about you, to be extremely glib. And not at all aligned with the truth,” Zuckerberg shot back during an interview with Vox’s Ezra Klein published Monday. “If you want to build a service which is not just serving rich people, then you need to have something people can afford.”

Due to a number of apparent missteps or revelations, some of which transformed into national and international scandals, Facebook has been struggling to convince people that it cares about their virtual well-being. The company disclosed that it was suspending Cambridge Analytica, a data analytics firm that worked with President Donald Trump’s campaign, because it realized that the group violated a contractual agreement to only utilize data in a certain way and failed to rectify the situation.

Perhaps extra-frustrated due to how his company is being perceived by large portions of the public, Zuckerberg evidently felt the need to fire back at his fellow Silicon Valley bigwig.

“I think it’s important that we don’t all get Stockholm syndrome, and let the companies that work hard to charge you more, convince you that they actually care more about you,” Zuckerberg continued in the Vox podcast. “Because that sounds ridiculous to me.” (RELATED: Rubio Grills Apple For Sucking Up To China For Profits)

Zuckerberg hasn’t been shy to reply to other tech tycoons before, although they are usually done in a more indirect and amiable way.

For instance, he called fears over artificial intelligence “pretty irresponsible” in July after Tesla CEO Elon Musk notably said not too long before that the prospect of killer robots may necessitate regulatory proactivity, not reactivity. Musk dismissed Zuckerberg’s refutation, saying Zuckerberg’s understanding of AI, especially as a threat, is limited.

More recently, Musk deleted the official Facebook pages for Space X and Tesla, which reportedly had millions of followers, due to recent news reports about Zuckerberg’s tech company. At one point, he asked “What’s Facebook?” on Twitter, an ostensibly cheeky remark and slight.

And there was also the time that Musk’s SpaceX rocket exploded upon liftoff, and destroyed a nearby satellite that was owned by Facebook and was intended to provide internet to impoverished and desolate places of the world. In a response to the dire, costly accident Zuckerberg seemed both understanding, but also frustrated with Musk and his company’s endeavors.

A verbal sparring specifically between Cook and Zuckerberg has occurred before, but not in years. The latest back-and-forth shows that while Zuckerberg and Cook, and their respective companies, don’t seem to overlap a lot, they are still competitors vying for the public’s respect and admiration.

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