Technology 'Does Not Need Vast Troves Of Personal Data' To Succeed

Tim Cook
CEO of Apple

For companies that have the whole world as users and potential customers, they can go to great length to pursue them. And the social giant Facebook is one of them.

Apple does not consider Facebook as a direct competitor. This is because the two companies' philosophies are diametrically opposing each other.

Apple is a lifestyle brand, and that it is the creator of the iPhones, iPads, Macs and other expensive products. And part of the lifestyle Apple sells, is providing users the platform and the device where they can have more control over their privacy.

Facebook on the other hand, is in the data business. It provides its services for free. From the core Facebook app, to Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram, they are all free to use. But in return, the company collects data about its users. The more data Facebook collects on users, they more effective its targeted ads will become.

But collecting and selling all that data comes at great cost, as Apple CEO Tim Cook highlighted.

"The end result of all of this is that you are no longer the customer," said Cook. "You are the product."

And here, Facebook has a grunge against Apple because of the latter's policy and rules.

Tim Cook.

In a speech at the Computers, Privacy and Data Protection (CPDP) conference in Brussels, Cook went on the offensive against Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

While Cook's speech seemed to have been directed to Facebook, Cook took the direct aim at the social giant without ever mentioning the company by name.

Technology does not need vast troves of personal data stitched together across dozens of websites and apps in order to succeed. Advertising existed and thrived for decades without it, and we're here today because the path of least resistance is rarely the path of wisdom.

If a business is built on misleading users on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, then it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform.

We should not look away from the bigger picture and a moment of rampant disinformation and conspiracy theory is 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.

Too many are still asking the question, 'How much can we get away with?' When they need to be asking, 'What are the consequences?'

What are the consequences of prioritizing conspiracy theories and violent incitement simply because of the high rates of engagement?

What are the consequences of not just tolerating but rewarding content that undermines public trust in life-saving vaccinations?

What are the consequences of seeing thousands of users joining extremist groups and then perpetuating an algorithm that recommends even more?

It is long past time to stop pretending that this approach doesn't come with a cause. A polarization of lost trust, and yes, of violence.

A social dilemma cannot be allowed to become a social catastrophe."

The fact that Cook criticized Facebook for misleading customers and abusing data without naming Facebook somehow increases its impact.

This makes it appear that Cook was referencing to Facebook and other companies, through his remarks that are related to disinformation, growing divisions and extremism.

While Cook made no explicit reference to Facebook, but his remarks came amid growing and public animosity between the Apple and Facebook over their differing approaches to user data and privacy.

“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,” Cook said.

"We believe that ethical technology is technology that works for you," said Cook.

"It's technology that helps you sleep, not keeps you up. It tells you when you've had enough. It gives you space to create or draw or write or learn, not refresh just one more time."

At first, Apple and Facebook are on different paths.

After all, they weren't created or meant to be competitors. Both have different philosophies that made them aim for diverging paths, but that was before iOS 14 and App Store's "nutrition label",

Zuckerberg's statement accused Apple for using "every incentive" in "their dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps and other apps work, which they regularly do to preference their own.”

Zuckerberg added that Apple's move "impacts the growth of millions of businesses around the world."

It's during this Apple and Facebook feud that the two companies are on a collision course.

Cook is indirectly claiming Apple as the champion for privacy rights. At the same time, Zuckerberg has been fighting for Facebook’s use of collecting personal data on its users. The two powerful CEOs have exchanged jabs, and Cook's speech is yet another blow to Facebook, if not the final.