The New York Times reports that Apple CEO Tim Cook urged Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to delete user information collected through third-party apps at a private meeting in 2019.
The meeting came when Facebook was embroiled in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook was under intense scrutiny for sharing information of over 50 million users, without consent, with Cambridge Analytica. The company used the information to run political ads during the 2016 Presidential election.
Zuckerberg reportedly asked Cook how he would handle the situation if it happened to Apple. Cook replied by saying that Facebook should delete the information gathered through third-party apps. Eyewitnesses say that Zuckerberg was “stunned” by the response, given that Facebook is built on a business model of customer data and using that data to serve personalized ads. Zuckerberg interpreted the comments as Cook saying his business was “untenable.”
Cook was pressed in an interview from 2018 about how he would deal with the situation. His answer at the time was, “I wouldn’t be in the situation.”
The executives rarely ever meet eye-to-eye on matters like this. Tensions between the two companies will likely peak in the next few days as Apple releases iOS and iPadOS 14.5 with App Tracking Transparency. The feature cracks down on apps tracking users across websites and other apps.
The update means that every app, Facebook included, must expressly ask permission to track users across apps and websites owned by other companies. Users can choose not to be tracked, which means the device prevents the app from collecting that information.
Facebook has called the change unfair, saying it’s a blow to small businesses that use Facebook and Facebook Ads to run personalized ads. Facebook believes most people will opt out of being tracked, which means the platform has less effective data for its ads.
Cook says that Apple wants to provide users with a choice about being tracked or not. Cook recently spoke at a privacy conference, indirectly calling out social media companies that fuel conspiracy theories and disinformation with their algorithms.