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Here’s why some Facebook employees are calling Tim Cook a hypocrite

Published Apr 27th, 2021 9:54AM EDT
iOS 14.5
Image: Apple/YouTube

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In the lead-up to Monday’s arrival of the long-awaited iOS 14.5 — the new version of Apple’s mobile operating software that strikes a blow against the creepy user tracking underpinning Facebook’s business model — there was a particular dynamic that consistently dominated much of the press coverage.

Things tended to be put in pretty binary terms whenever Apple’s tough new stance against user tracking was written about, with journalists and bloggers presenting it as a sort of zero-sum game between Apple and Facebook and between their respective CEOs Tim Cook and Mark Zuckerberg. And on one level, sure, it is pretty straightforward. Both companies and their chief executives represent different constituencies, have clear and diametrically opposed track records when it comes to privacy, and they have core values that couldn’t be more different from eachother. The months-long framing of Apple’s launch of its new App Tracking Transparency framework as a showdown between Apple and Facebook, even though these are standards that every iOS app developer now has to adhere to, probably has something to do with that thing that’s hard-wired into us as humans — the need to feel like stories should have a good guy and a bad guy. Nevertheless, the squabble between both companies dominated a juicy New York Times piece on Monday laying out the backstory between Cook and Zuckerberg. Likewise, Zuckerberg has on at least one occasion in the past told his executives that Facebook “needed to inflict pain” upon Apple and Mr. Cook, according to The Wall Street Journal.

It’s de rigeur for tech journalists, bloggers, privacy advocates, and the Twitterati to dunk hard on Facebook every time Zuckerberg opens his mouth or Facebook gets in hot water over another privacy scandal. In an attempt to convey the fullness of the dynamic between both companies over the iOS 14.5 situation and regarding privacy in general, however, what you’ll find below are some of the things that Facebookers think Apple either gets too much of a pass on, rarely has to answer for, or hasn’t defended well enough thus far. They include:

The Google search engine deal

Apple has so elevated privacy into the fabric of the company’s mission, that the iPhone maker made it kind of official: “Privacy,” according to Apple, “is a fundamental human right.” But there are some Facebook employees who will push back on that with you in private, noting that Apple makes as much as $12 billion per year (per the NYT) by letting Google, one of the creepiest companies on the planet when it comes to privacy, be the default search engine on iPhones and iPads.

Apple and China

From one of the creepiest companies, we now turn to Apple operating inside one of the creepiest and most repressive countries on the planet, one that has made pervasive surveillance of citizens a way of life. This is another thing some Facebookers will tell you privately whenever someone is talking about Apple’s championing of privacy as a core value. Facebook is banned in China, but Apple’s presence inside the country has included a manufacturing as well as retail presence. Whether or not you feel like this is a legitimate point to make, though, it’s watered down by the fact that Zuckerberg has made a strong push in the past to try and allow Facebook to do business there. It is a virtual certainty that he would make this happen if China’s political leadership gave the green light, but, nevertheless, that’s not the case today.

Multiple official Apple Facebook pages

Of all the companies that have done that whole performative “That’s it, we’re pulling the plug, we’re abandoning Facebook because they’re so terrible” charade, you’d think Apple would have reached that breaking point, right? But no; Apple operates a Podcasts page on Facebook, which has been liked more than 27,200 times and has more than 33,000 followers. There’s also the Apple Music page on Facebook, which has garnered around 4 million likes and more than 4 million people following the page. And here’s the Apple TV page on Facebook, which provides updates about the content on Apple’s Netflix-like TV+ service. That page has been liked more than 28.9 million times on Facebook, and it has almost 29 million followers. Again, I know the reality here is a bit more complicated — Apple just wants Facebook to do better on privacy, not, you know, cease to exist. But put it this way: In a recent interview with Fast Company, Cook said that, so often, “I try to get somebody to think about what happens in a world where you know that you’re being surveilled all the time.” He must surely think that Facebook does that very thing. And yet Apple is using the social network to support its own commercial imperatives in the process, marketing to people through Facebook pages that communicate important Apple services. Go figure.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.