The two tech titans have been feuding since at least 2014, but recently their battle has included public punches, ad campaigns, and Facebook might be preparing to bring an antitrust lawsuit against Apple.
In September 2014, Cook gave an interview with Charlie Rose.
During the interview Cook spoke about Apple's commitment to privacy while making negative comments about the business models of companies like Google and Facebook.
"I think everyone has to ask, how do companies make their money? Follow the money," Cook said. "And if they're making money mainly by collecting gobs of personal data, I think you have a right to be worried. And you should really understand what's happening to that data."
Later he said,
"A few years ago, users of Internet services began to realize that when an online service is free, you're not the customer. You're the product," Cook wrote.
Zuckerberg responded in Time and was visibly irritated by Cook's assertions.
"A frustration I have is that a lot of people increasingly seem to equate an advertising business model with somehow being out of alignment with your customers," Zuckerberg told Time's Lev Grossman. "I think it's the most ridiculous concept. What, you think because you're paying Apple that you're somehow in alignment with them? If you were in alignment with them, then they'd make their products a lot cheaper!"
In 2018, a whistleblower revealed that consulting firm Cambridge Analytica harvested user data without consent from 50 million users.
When asked how he would handle the scandal Cook responded: "What would I do? I wouldn't be in this situation."
He said Facebook should have regulated itself when it came to user data, but that "I think we're beyond that here. The truth is, we could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer — if our customer was our product. We've elected not to do that."
Zuckerberg responded with, "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. 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. Because that sounds ridiculous to me."
In November 2018, The New York Times published a blockbuster report that Cook's comments had "infuriated" Zuckerberg, who ordered employees on his management team who used iPhones to switch to Android.
"Tim Cook has consistently criticized our business model and Mark has been equally clear he disagrees. So there's been no need to employ anyone else to do this for us," Facebook wrote. "And we've long encouraged our employees and executives to use Android because it is the most popular operating system in the world."
Following the comment by Facebook, Zuckerberg openly criticized Apple, saying it has a "unique stranglehold as a gatekeeper on what gets on phones." He said that the App Store blocks innovation and competition and "allows Apple to charge monopoly rents."
Apple recently blocked an update to Facebook's iOS app that would have informed users about the fee Apple charges (Apple is facing negative media regarding it's antitrust practices, most notably "Fortnite" creator Epic Games, for the 30% fee it takes from App Store purchases). Epic Games is heading to trial with Apple next year claiming that it engages in anti-competitive behavior.
In the latest version of Apple's smartphone operating system, iOS, iPhone app developers will need to ask permission from users in order to collect and track their data (this will have a direct impact on Facebook's advertising business because it uses data tracking to dictate which ads are served to users).
"This is not a change we want to make, but unfortunately Apple's updates to iOS 14 have forced this decision," Facebook said regarding the potential shut down of Audience Network for iOS.
The complaints from Facebook and other developers led Apple to delay the new privacy tools until next year, saying it wanted to "give developers the time they need to make the necessary changes."
"Without personalized ads, Facebook data shows that the average small business advertiser stands to see a cut of over 60% in their sales for every dollar they spend," Facebook wrote.
Apple hit back, saying that it was "standing up for our users."
"Users should know when their data is being collected and shared across other apps and websites — and they should have the choice to allow that or not," an Apple spokesperson said.
Facebook is preparing a lawsuit claiming that Apple has forced app developers to follow a different set of rules than Apple-made apps, such as requiring developers to use an in-app payments system, of which Apple takes a cut.
Even recently Zuckerberg has continued his shade towards Apple, "Now Apple recently released so-called nutrition labels, which focused largely on metadata that apps collect rather than the privacy and security of people's actual messages, but iMessage stores non-end-to-end encrypted backups of your messages by default unless you disable iCloud," Zuckerberg said.
Zuckerberg went on to describe Apple as "one of our biggest competitors" and said that because Apple is increasingly relying on services to fuel its business, it "has every incentive to use their dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps and other apps work, which they regularly do to preference their own."
"This impacts the growth of millions of businesses around the world," he added.
Cook responded saying, "But no, if I may ask who our biggest competitor are, [Facebook] would not be listed. We're not in the social networking business."
In a not-so-veiled speech at the European Computers, Privacy and Data Protection Conference, Cook shot back but did not mention Facebook by name. He said, "at a moment of rampant disinformation and conspiracy theories juiced by algorithms, we can no longer turn a blind eye to a theory of technology that says all engagement is good engagement — the longer the better — and all with the goal of collecting as much data as possible."
Facebook responded with, "every business starts with an idea, and being able to share that idea through personalized ads is a game changer for small businesses. Limiting the use of personalized ads would take away a vital growth engine for businesses."
Apple's privacy crackdown is expected to roll out this spring and Facebook warned during its most recent earnings that it could begin affecting its business as early as the first quarter of 2021.
Cook said 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. "We know these things are flimsy arguments. 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."
The feud is shore to escalate as the changes to the operating system and the antitrust suits get underway. Grab a beverage, kick back and watch the fire works.