Facebook vs. Apple: Battle of the Titans

Facebook and Apple are at war. Why? Well, people will say it’s about ‘user privacy’ but let’s be honest, the real answer is money, or rather, how each company makes it. Facebook makes billions collecting data from its users and utilizing that data for targeted marketing. Apple makes billions through its App Store (in-app purchases, app sales, and subscription apps).

Here’s the issue—Apple is rolling out new iOS data privacy features which will make it harder for third-party users (like Facebook) to track and collect user data. This could kill the revenue Facebook makes from advertising.

Apple CEO, Tim Cook recently stated, “businesses that are built on data exploitation… need reform.” I wonder to whom he was referring?

Facebook is so desperate for their users’ data, they’re preparing to sue Apple for anti-competitive practices. The lawsuit alleges that “Apple abused its market power by forcing third-party developers, including Facebook, to follow a different set of rules that Apple’s branded apps aren’t required to follow.”

Neither company is willing to back down. There is no middle ground. This is not about ideals. It’s about the nature of their businesses, how they make money, and who will ultimately dominate big tech.

Facebook needs your data

Facebook is in the data business. The more they gather, the more they profit.

You are not Facebook’s customer, you are Facebook’s product. The more they know about you, the more money they make. It’s why they follow you around the Internet and ask banks for your data.

Just recently, WhatsApp (which is owned by Facebook), informed its users that in order to continue using the messaging service they would have to agree to share their data with Facebook (this was to take place on February 8, 2021). This prompted millions of WhatsApp users to leave the platform. WhatsApp quickly announced it would postpone the new policy until May 15, 2021.

Facebook wants its users to believe they care about privacy, but the WhatsApp ultimatum and the possible lawsuit against Apple are reminders that user data is essential to Facebook’s survival.

Apple is selling privacy

Apple playing the “we care about user privacy” card makes a lot of sense. More than ever, people are aspiring towards greater control over online privacy. Right now, VPNs are a $23.6 billion industry, with 26% of Internet users using one. When WhatsApp changed their privacy policy (as mentioned above), the privacy-focused messaging app Signal grew 4200% and encrypted email service ProtonMail also saw a surge in sign-ups—with many new customers happily paying for the service.

So why wouldn’t Apple go all-in on privacy? Apple has always looked for ways to differentiate their premium products and services—their Privacy-as-a-Service (PaaS) is yet another tool they can utilize to keep their customers locked-in to the brand.

Will Apple crush Facebook?

This is hardly the first time Apple has been accused of anti-competitive practices and it likely won’t be the last. Facebook has complained about Apple’s store policies many times. If Facebook runs afoul of Apple’s Terms of Service, their apps can be removed from the app store at any time—something Apple has done before. Since 96% of Facebook users access the social network through a mobile device, this isn’t a fight that Facebook can afford to lose.

Let’s not forget that Apple has killed off wildly popular technologies before. During the 2000s, millions of websites depended on Adobe Flash. YouTube, for example, depended on the technology for video. Then on April 29, 2010, Steve Jobs published an open letter—Thoughts on Flash, outlining why Flash would never be allowed on iOS products. Soon after, other tech companies followed suit—Flash was soon dead.

Is Apple hellbent on killing Facebook? Will Facebook back down? This battle will get bloody, but in the end—someone will win and someone will lose. Stay tuned.