Monday 1 February 2021
A battle over the future direction of the internet is being waged in the boardrooms of two of the internet’s biggest companies. In the ring are Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, and Tim Cook, CEO of Apple. For years, the internet business model has been simple – gather as much data as possible about users and sell that data to third parties, mainly advertisers. Apple, led by Tim Cook, are looking to change that.
Apple are getting stricter on the privacy settings for all apps using their iOS operating system. They will only allow user data to be shared with third parties with explicit user permission. Most people expect the vast majority of users to not give permission. This is an existential threat to Facebook’s business model (and many other internet businesses that have followed Facebook’s playbook). It is also further than any government regulator has dared to go in regulating the big internet players.
Zuckerberg has come out swinging, accusing Apple of breaching antitrust law. He also argues that Apple is just doing this for their own self interest (when technology businesses make money from ads, Apple don’t get a cut. However, if they make money from selling their apps or subscriptions through the App Store, Apple do take a percentage).
However, Cook is standing firm, arguing that technology companies shouldn’t need vast troves of personal data to succeed. For him, it is bigger than the future of the internet, as he argues that this policy change will help stop the forces undermining democracy as well. This battle between two internet giants and two billionaire CEOs will define the future of online privacy.