Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly demanded that fellow executives stop using Apple devices immediately following critical remarks about privacy from the latter company’s CEO Tim Cook, The New York Times reports. In particular, the Apple executive had stated in an interview on the matter with MSNBC that the company would not “traffic” in users’ personal lives, clarifying that Apple views privacy as a “human right” and a “civil liberty.” Mr. Zuckerberg is said to have become infuriated and to have ordered other executives within the company to only use Android phones, reasoning that the OS is simply more popular than iOS and has more users. There’s no indication as to whether or not that resulted in any losses for Apple in the company’s ranks but Facebook has since responded to the original story via a newsroom press release. The social media giant asserts that it has “long encouraged” both employees and executives to use Android because of its popularity.
Background: Facebook has been rocked by a number of scandals over the past several months but Apple’s criticisms, in this case, are tied directly to the company’s ongoing Cambridge Analytica debacle. That stemmed, at least initially, from a 2014 data breach that affected as many as 87 million users. News about the incidents associated with that didn’t break until early 2018 when it began to be reported that Cambridge Analytica had been utilizing Facebook data collected by at least one researcher behind Facebook apps and quizzes. Facebook policies, at the time, allowed data collected on users by platform participants to be given or sold to third-parties. That policy is no longer in place. In fact, the company has gone further to instate a policy that seeks to prevent third-party developers from collecting that type of data at all if the user has been inactive within an app or other services for more than 90 days.
However, concerns still remain for how the company has handled its data breaches and how it handled other issues associated with propaganda and election meddling. The most recent of the company’s data leaks occurred in October and is thought to have impacted as many as 29 million users. Spammers are thought to have been behind that breach and to have intended to serve users with malicious advertisements. The attack stemmed from a bug in Facebook’s “View As” feature and allowed access to tokens that, in turn, allowed the bad actors to access users’ personal profiles and other information. As many as 14 million of those affected were determined by a subsequent investigation involving the FBI to have had deep personal details accessed, including information ranging from smartphone model designations and religious affiliation to their city of residence.
Impact: It isn’t immediately clear whether or not Zuckerberg’s remarks in the latest reports were in any way an attempt to lash out at Apple after that company’s CEO issued his criticisms. Android does overwhelmingly dominate the current global smartphone market. On the one hand, it would make some sense for the company to ensure that it appears to be using devices that are relevant to the vast majority of users. Furthermore, it could be argued that using the most popular OS would feasibly allow Facebook to spot the most widespread bugs on the platform more quickly or at least those that would be affecting the most users. Bearing that in mind, the internal struggles at the company have become increasingly poignant, with some shareholders going so far as to petition for Mr. Zuckerberg’s removal from his position as Chairman to lessen his impact on the company. So the reported remarks could also point to deeper underlying problems and tensions at the company.