Kara Swisher: ‘Facebook’s Tone-Deaf Attack on Apple’

Kara Swisher, in her column for The New York Times:

Facebook declared in the newspaper ads that it was “standing up to Apple” and warned that such a change will be the ruin of small businesses. More like the ruin of Facebook. The company is terrified that giving users single-click power to control their own information will force people to realize just how loud is the data-sucking sound coming from Facebook’s app.

Let’s be clear: Apple is no saint. While looking and acting like a defender of user privacy has long been a core tenet of the company, its bottom line does not depend on advertising, and ridding the world of intrusive marketing by kneecapping Facebook is good for its business.

In fact, Apple has its own sins to answer for. Many people claim it has too much control over the third-party developers that are dependent on Apple’s mobile app ecosystem, an issue that has gained a lot of regulatory and legal attention of late. Apple takes a 30 percent cut of many of the transactions that take place in the App Store, and many companies say that fee is unreasonably high; some say it is predatory.

It’s a good column overall, and I think Swisher hits on a major point at the end — that Facebook more than ever rues not having succeeded, and perhaps regrets having giving up on, owning its own phone platform.

But the above quoted bit is way too “both sides”. It’s pure whataboutism. The “Apple is no saint” angle, regarding greed over the App Store commission, plays into Facebook’s hands. Facebook’s whole argument is that Apple isn’t really interested in user privacy, they’re just being jerks to spite Facebook because Facebook’s targeted advertising is a boon to small businesses, and Apple is against small businesses because, uh … and here is where Facebook hopes you lose interest in the argument and just buy the basic premise that Apple isn’t really interested in privacy for privacy’s sake. It’s cynical — an appeal to the belief that no company believes in anything if it isn’t profiting from the belief, so Apple’s privacy stance must be benefitting it in some sneaky way.

It’s entirely possible, and I say it’s true, that Apple’s bottom line does not depend on privacy invasion not by happenstance but because the company well and truly believes in privacy as a human right to its core.

Whatever you think of Apple’s 15 to 30 percent commission on App Store commerce, it really has nothing to do with the company’s privacy policies.

Friday, 18 December 2020