Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, speaks at the 2019 Dreamforce Conference in San Francisco on November 19, 2019.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Apple CEO Tim Cook linked Facebook’s business model with data on Thursday to run targeted ads with real-life consequences such as violence or a reduction in public trust in vaccines.
In Cook’s speech at a privacy conference in Brussels, Facebook was not mentioned by name, but the social media company was clearly a target of the Apple CEO’s warning.
“If a company is based on misleading users, on data usage, and on decisions that are not decisions at all, it does not deserve our praise. It deserves contempt,” said Cook.
Cook also criticized recommendation algorithms that suggest extremist groups to users, as Facebook has come under fire for this. On Wednesday, Facebook said it would stop automatically recommending political groups on a permanent basis.
Cook also said that he believes some companies are rewarding content that might undermine public confidence in vaccination in order to fuel engagement.
“In a moment of rampant disinformation and conspiracy theories being juiced up by algorithms, we can no longer turn a blind eye to a technology theory that says that all engagement is good and the longer the better,” said Cook.
The talk comes as the battle between rivals in Silicon Valley intensifies, particularly over a new iPhone feature called App Tracking Transparency (ATT), which is forcing apps to ask users for permission to access an important device identifier that was created by Companies like Facebook and Facebook use Google to serve and measure mobile phone ads.
Cook’s comments come after the pro-Trump uprising on Capitol Hill in January, raising questions about whether Facebook’s algorithms and tools were used to fuel the unrest. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, was already forced to defend the company, saying that rioters who planned violence were “largely” not organized on Facebook.
“It’s been a long time since we stopped pretending that this approach didn’t cover the costs of polarization, loss of confidence and violence,” Cook said. “A social dilemma must not cause a social catastrophe.”
On Wednesday, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg slammed the ATT change, saying Apple was its biggest competitor. It also implied that Apple was using privacy as a justification to discriminate against Facebook.
“Apple has every incentive to use its dominant platform position to affect the way our apps and other apps work, which they regularly do to favor their own,” Zuckerberg said.
Apple told CNBC on Wednesday that the next beta version of its iPhone operating system will push through ATT, meaning the change will go into effect for everyone soon – Apple says it will take place in “early spring.”