Facebook's Zuckerberg takes aim at Apple's privacy pitch, motives with iOS 14

Facebook's Zuckerberg went a little pro wrestling (at least for tech CEOs not named Larry Ellison) with its Apple confrontation.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Facebook's fourth quarter earnings conference call featured CEO Mark Zuckerberg calling out Apple's iOS 14 moves, saying the iPhone maker was "one of our biggest competitors" and questioning motives.

Yes folks, Facebook's Zuckerberg went a little pro wrestling (at least for tech CEOs not named Larry Ellison) with its Apple confrontation.

Zuckerberg has a reason to be a bit bent out of shape. Facebook said its future results could be hurt by privacy changes in Apple's iOS 14. Zuckerberg argued that Apple's changes are aimed at benefiting iMessage and harm small businesses.

Here are Zuckerberg's comments in full:

WhatsApp, and the direction that we're heading in with Messenger, are the best private social apps available. Now we have a lot of competitors who make claims about privacy that are often misleading. 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-intending encrypted backups of your messages by default unless you disable iCloud. So Apple and governments have the ability to access most people's messages. So when it comes to what matters most, protecting people's messages, I think that WhatsApp is clearly superior. Now since I try to use these earnings calls to discuss aspects of business strategy that I think are important for investors to understand, I do want to highlight that we increasingly see Apple as one of our biggest competitors. iMessage is a key linchpin of their ecosystem. It comes pre-installed on every iPhone, and they preference it with private APIs and permissions, which is why iMessage is the most used messaging service in the U.S. And now we are also seeing apples business depend more and more on gaining share in apps and services against us and other developers. So Apple 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. And this impacts the growth of millions of businesses around the world including with the upcoming iOS 14 changes, many small businesses will no longer be able to reach their customers with targeted ads. Now Apple may say that they're doing this to help people, but the moves clearly track their competitive interests. And I think that this dynamic is important for people to understand because we and others are going to be up against this for the foreseeable future. Now our messaging services continue growing, but it is an uphill battle, and our services just need to be that much better as private social platforms to succeed.

Facebook operating chief Sheryl Sandberg noted that Facebook will find ways to amplify stories about small businesses worried about Apple's iOS changes.


Apple CEO Tim Cook didn't address Facebook by name but did stick to the company's pitch on privacy. Cook said:

Tomorrow is International Privacy Day, and we continue to set new standards to protect users' right to privacy, not just for our own products but to be the ripple in the pond that moves the whole industry forward. Most recently, we're in the process of deploying new requirements across the App Store ecosystem that give users more knowledge about and new tools to control the ways that apps gather and share their personal data.

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