Apple CEO Tim Cook didn’t pull any punches when asked about Facebook’s privacy issues and what he would do in Zuckerberg’s position: “What would I do? I wouldn’t be in this situation.” Cook took the opportunity to emphasize Apple’s message about user privacy, noting the company sells products to people, “it doesn’t sell users to advertisers.”
Zuckerberg took issue with the implication that Facebook is indifferent to the concerns of its 2 billion users because of its ad-supported business model, which prioritizes user attention.
“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,” Zuckerberg said. “The reality here is that if you wanna build a service that helps connect everyone in the world, then there are a lot of people (that) can’t afford to pay.”
Zuckerberg said Facebook, like a lot of media companies, adopted an advertising model as a way to reach more people — including those who couldn’t afford to pay for the service. He appeared to turn the criticism on Cook and Apple, which long has been positioned as a maker of high-end products.
“I mean, look, if you wanna build a service which is not just serving rich people, then you need to have something that people can afford,” Zuckerberg said, citing Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who, during a Kindle launch, talked about “companies that work hard to charge you more, and there are companies that work hard to charge you less.”
Facebook, Zuckerberg said, is firmly in the affordability camp.
“I think it’s really important that we don’t get all Stockholm Syndrome and let companies that work hard to charge you more convince you that they actually care more about you,” Zuckerberg told Vox. Because that sounds ridiculous to me.”
Facebook is under growing scrutiny about its privacy practices since revelations that millions’ of users personal data may have been used, without their permission, by the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to guide Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Just last week, the debate was stirred anew by publication of a 2016 memo obtained by BuzzFeed News, written by one of Zuckerberg’s chief lieutenants, that talked about Facebook’s relentless quest for growth and the toll of fostering connections. Called The Ugly, the memo notes that “the ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people is *de facto* good,” wrote Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, adding that these same tools have a consequence, “Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated with our tools.”
Bosworth said, in a statement published on Twitter, that the provocative memo was written to promote internal discussion. Zuckerberg issued a statement saying he disagreed strongly with the thesis of growth at any cost, saying “We’ve never believed the ends justified the means.”