Tim Cook says Facebook’s objections to letting people pick whether or not to be tracked are ‘flimsy arguments’


 Apple CEO Tim Cook, left, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 

  • Tim Cook says Facebook’s arguments about Apple’s upcoming privacy features are “flimsy.”
  • “I think that you can do digital advertising…without tracking people,” he told The New York Times.
  • Facebook has said Apple’s new feature will destroy part of its advertising business.

Tim Cook isn’t buying Facebook’s arguments against Apple’s upcoming privacy changes.

In a new podcast interview with The New York Times’ Kara Swisher, published Monday, the Apple CEO discussed Facebook’s reaction to Apple’s new privacy feature, which will go live in a few weeks. The feature, called App Tracking Transparency, which will alert users when their data is being tracked in an app and allow them to opt out.

The new feature has been angering Facebook since it was announced – the social media company says the update could destroy part of its business, a tool that personalizes ads in third-party apps. Facebook has warned that it could begin impacting its bottom line in the first quarter of 2021.

Cook told The Times that he believes society is in a privacy crisis and that he’s been “shocked” that there’s been pushback to the new feature to this degree: Facebook has since taken out full-page ads in papers like The New York Times and Wall Street Journal declaring that it’s standing up for small businesses, and launched a new ad campaign that makes the case that personalized ads help Facebook users discover small businesses.

“We know these things are flimsy arguments,” Cook told The Times. “I think that you can do digital advertising and make money from digital advertising without tracking people when they don’t know they’re being tracked.”

Cook also said he doesn’t view Facebook as a competitor, contrary to what Zuckerberg has said: During the company’s most recent earnings call, Zuckerberg called Apple “one of our biggest competitors” given that Apple is increasingly relying on services to fuel its business.

“Oh, I think that we compete in some things,” Cook said. “But no, if I may ask who our biggest competitor are, they would not be listed. We’re not in the social networking business.”

Facebook and Apple have a long history of disagreements, beginning in 2014 when Cook lambasted Facebook’s business model. Cook also openly criticized Facebook following the company’s Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, with Cook saying he would never end up in Zuckerberg’s situation. Zuckerberg hit back, calling Cook’s comments “extremely glib” and privately ordering his employees to switch to Android devices.

Facebook later confirmed the feud between the two CEOs, writing in a blog post that “Tim Cook has consistently criticized our business model and Mark has been equally clear he disagrees.”

Now, the battle between Cook and Zuckerberg may play out in the courtroom: According to a report from The Information from January, Facebook is working on a lawsuit claiming that Apple has forced app developers to follow a different set of rules than Apple-made apps.

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