Facebook and Apple’s fight over your data is heating up. Apple’s tracking–optional mobile operating system update is coming to iPhones, and the new privacy-preserving features will give users the ability to opt out of being followed around the internet via trackers in their apps.
Facebook — which makes the vast majority of its money from data collected through those trackers — really doesn’t like Apple’s new features. Now Facebook is considering suing Apple, and Apple is digging in its heels.
However, Facebook relies on Apple’s iPhones to reach millions of users, and Apple needs Facebook’s wildly popular apps on its phones to keep people from going to competing platforms. Both companies have thrived since the iPhone’s release, and for the most part they haven’t made products that compete directly.
Late January saw the latest exchange of words between the two companies in a standoff that’s been going on for months. On January 27, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a quarterly earnings call that “we increasingly see Apple as one of our biggest competitors,” accusing Apple of using its “dominant platform position” to push its own apps while interfering with Facebook’s. Zuckerberg added that Apple may frame this as a privacy service to its customers, but it’s really only in Apple’s own best anti-competitive interests. The following morning, the Information reported that Facebook was preparing an antitrust suit against Apple over its App Store rules (which, if filed, will join several others).
Apple is not backing down. The day after Facebook’s earnings call, CEO Tim Cook spoke at the Computers, Privacy and Data Protection conference. In his keynote address, Cook never mentioned Facebook by name, but the target of his pointed remarks about data and advertising was obvious.
The two companies will compete in hardware when Apple releases a virtual reality device to rival Facebook’s Oculus Quest headset as early as next year. Both companies are also developing their own augmented reality glasses, though those are further off. Apple and Facebook are also beginning to compete in the home. Facebook now has an array of smart home devices for video chat that somewhat compete with Apple’s own TV set top box, HomePod speaker, and iPads for FaceTime.