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Facebook just launched the latest strike in its 15-month cold war with Apple

Business Insider | Jun 24, 2019, 09.26PM IST

Mark Zuckerberg Tim Cook

Reuters

Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook.

Facebook has launched its latest strike on Apple in a war of words that has dragged on for more than 15 months.

The two companies have been repeatedly dueling over privacy and their differing business models since the catastrophic Cambridge Analytica data breach became global news in March 2018.

Although they rarely, if ever, mention each other by name, the subtext of the attacks is often in plain sight, and the firms have done little to distance themselves from the press slanging match.

This cold war continued on Monday when Nick Clegg, Facebook's recently-hired head of global affairs and one of CEO Mark Zuckerberg's top lieutenants, took to a stage in Berlin, Germany.

Reflecting on Facebook's advertising-funded business model - which means it is free at the point of access and available to all with an internet connection - Clegg contrasted this with other tech firms, with an eye on one in particular.

Read more: Facebook and Google could be forced to tell you how much your data is worth under new US legislation

"Facebook is free - it's for everyone," he said. "Some other big tech companies make their money by selling expensive hardware or subscription services, or in some cases both, to consumers in developed, wealthier economies. They are an exclusive club, available only to aspirant consumers with the means to buy high-value hardware and services."

The obvious example he is grasping for is Apple, which makes iPhones for $1,000 and sells subscriptions to music, TV, and news to its base of a billion users.

Nick Clegg

Eddie Keogh/Reuters

Facebook's Nick Clegg.

"There's no exclusivity at Facebook. No VIP access. No business class," Clegg added. "Our services are as accessible to students in Guatemala, cattle farmers in the mid-west United States, office workers in Mumbai, tech start-ups in Nairobi or taxi drivers in Berlin. More than 2 billion people use our platforms - because they can."

This is important because it speaks to one of Zuckerberg's founding missions to connect the world. This principle is often paraded as a reason why Facebook is a force for good at a time when it can appear to be drowning in a sea of scandals, including data breaches, harmful content, and being used to meddle in democracy. It's a message Facebook wants lawmakers to hear at a time when they are talking about breaking the company up.

Clegg was speaking just a week after Apple CEO Tim Cook gave a commencement speech at Stanford in which he savaged the "chaos factory" created by social media firms. "It feels a bit crazy that anyone should have to say this, but if you built a chaos factory, you can't dodge responsibility for the chaos," he said.

Again, there was no mention of Facebook, but the target of his argument was clear. Cook has trumpeted Apple's privacy values in contrast with Facebook ever since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when he said Facebook traffics "in your personal life."

Zuckerberg was said to be so perturbed by Cook's attack on Facebook after Cambridge Analytica that he told his management team to ditch their iPhones, according to The New York Times.

Facebook and Apple's cold war turned hot in January when Apple stopped Facebook's internal apps from working on employees' phones in response to reports that Facebook misused Apple's enterprise-app program to gather user data. The move sparked chaos at Facebook after it caused work inside Facebook to grind to a halt.

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