Why Apple CEO Tim Cook Can Be So Outspoken About Privacy, but Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook Can’t
Following Facebook’s data scandal earlier in 2018, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has been outspoken about how much he and his company value privacy. In a 2015 interview with NPR, Cook said, “We see that privacy is a fundamental human right that people have. We are going to do everything that we can to help maintain that trust.”
It’s not just a convenient argument for Apple to make itself look like the good guy. There are a few reasons Apple is so quick to criticize companies like Facebook following major privacy breaches.
Apple’s Business Model Is Different Than Facebook’s
Apple is (mostly) a hardware company. It sells iPhones, iPads and computers. The company does make software, like the operating systems its devices run on, but for the most part the apps running on Apple’s devices are made by third parties. Zuckerberg’s Facebook though, its revenue comes almost entirely from advertising.
Facebook ads rely on people’s information for targeting purposes. The more data Facebook collects, and the less privacy users have, the more specifically the ads can be targeted (and the more money Facebook can make). So while Apple chooses to charge a higher price for its devices to maximize its profits, Facebook seeks to collects as much data as it can for targeting ads.
People Trust Apple More Than Facebook
While Apple is not the most trusted company in the lineup of tech giants, it is generally more trusted than internet companies Facebook and Google.
In 2010, Apple faced criticism from government officials about location-tracking files on iOS devices. Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO at the time, was adamant about the company’s strong stance on privacy. He distanced Apple from other Silicon Valley companies by explaining how much Apple cared about protecting its users from any harmful effects of collecting their data.
The iOS location tracking file was then said to be “just a glitch” and Apple supposedly fixed the issue in a subsequent update. Since the 2010 slip up, Apple hasn’t faced any major issues regarding user privacy, which likely leads people to believe that the company is doing an adequate job of protecting their information.
Since the Cambridge Analytica news came out about Facebook sharing user data with third parties, Apple has upped its stance on privacy by adding new features and making privacy settings clearer and more user-friendly.
Apple Has More to Lose From a Privacy Breach
Facebook faces criticism almost constantly from privacy advocates who speak strongly against the social network’s data collection and handling practices. Even after Facebook’s latest privacy breach, users kept coming back to the site. Amidst calls to #DeleteFacebook, Facebook’s user base remained.
It’s as if people expect Facebook to collect their data, and as long as it doesn’t lead to their bank account getting hacked or their identity getting stolen they don’t care. Even after repeated privacy breaches and data nightmares, Facebook remains the largest social network on the internet.
Apple though has a brand built around privacy. The company has more to lose from a reputation standpoint than Facebook. Apple uses encryption on its devices that frustrates organizations like the FBI. Few other companies publicly oppose government requests for information like Apple has done.
Apple & Differential Privacy
Apple’s privacy web page explains that apple uses Differential Privacy. Differential Privacy is when your data is scrambled and combined with the data of millions of others. This lets Apple learn about “things like the most popular emoji, the best QuickType suggestions, and energy consumption rates in Safari,” without compromising your personal information. Apple doesn’t need your data specifically, it just needs to know how the average users, or most people, interact with their devices.
Facebook on the other hand needs specific information about you, not general populations. Personally targeted ads are what let Facebook charge higher rates for its advertisements. This is exactly why Facebook makes its privacy features optional, and not enabled by default. It needs information about how you use the product, and the less privacy you have the more money Facebook can make.
Apple enables encryption by default. End-to-end encryption keeps your iMessages confidential. This means only the conversation participants can see the contents of your messages.
Apple’s business model, compared to Facebook, is more welcoming to strong privacy measures. For Facebook, giving user’s more control over their data is a threat to business and could diminish Facebook’s massive profits. Apple on the other hand can stress it’s emphasis on privacy as a marketing and brand reputation strategy.