Executives at Apple Inc. (AAPL), including CEO Tim Cook, are pointing to what they see as privacy and trustworthiness issues with Facebook Inc. (FB) in an attempt to distinguish themselves from the social media behemoth. Apple, no doubt sensitive to its own relationship with issues of data privacy, responsibility and accountability, is speaking out about Facebook at a time when the social media company is taking heat from many different directions. According to a report by CNN, the latest salvo of remarks has not done any favors for the longstanding rivalry between the two giant companies, with Facebook executives frustrated by Apple executives' latest comments.
At the China Development Forum in Beijing, Tim Cook spoke out about Facebook and what he called the "dire" issues of privacy abuse and data harvesting. The problem "has become so large that probably some well-crafted regulation is necessary," he said, adding that "the ability of anyone to know what you've been browsing about for years, who your contacts are, who their contacts are, things you like and dislike and every intimate detail of your life—from my own point of view it shouldn't exist."
Fake News, Hate Speech Also Came Up
Aside from privacy concerns, Facebook has also made headlines in recent months for its potential roles in the delivery of fake news stories and as a vehicle for hate speech. Apple SVP Eddy Cue spoke with CNN at an interview at SXSW in Austin, Texas, earlier in the month. Apple wants its articles "to be from trusted sources so that we don't have a lot of the issues that have been going around in the marketplace," Cue said, possibly referring to Facebook. He also suggested that, when it comes to hate speech, "in today's world companies have to take responsibility ... we do think free speech is very important, but we don't think white supremacy or hate speech is important speech to be out there."
Overall, with these comments and others, Apple leadership seems to be portraying the company as a tech giant with a sense of responsibility and accountability, even as major competitors are being held to increasing levels of scrutiny. Additionally, these comments may help to keep attention away from issues that the company itself is facing. CNN points out that Apple has seen glitches in its Siri virtual-assistant program and that the HomePod has not sold as well as anticipated.
All of the attention on Facebook could have real implications for the company. The FTC has confirmed an investigation of Facebook's data practices. There is an ongoing campaign among activists to delete Facebook accounts. Among many other ramifications, if Facebook changes the way it utilizes data, it could mean trouble for many of its business partners.