SAN FRANCISCO — Apple CEO Tim Cook has rarely missed an opportunity in the past year to hit Facebook about its privacy issues. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hasn’t been shy about hitting back, accusing Apple of ignoring the poorest of the world’s consumers.
But on Wednesday, the brewing cold war between the two companies turned hot, when Apple said it had determined that Facebook violated its own rules for developers with a program that paid teenagers and others for their smartphone data. Apple then cut off Facebook employees’ access to internal Facebook corporate apps that run on iPhones and other Apple devices, a move that caused disarray at Facebook’s headquarters.
The battle also teases actions that could end up hitting consumers: Apps could be slower to update or become entirely unavailable, but companies could also be forced to more heavily weigh privacy considerations when building their apps.
Some observers of the two companies believe the fight has become personal between Zuckerberg, the 34-year-old from New York who founded Facebook, and Cook, 58, an Alabama native who was a largely anonymous tech executive until he took over Apple in 2011.
“The heart of this is ego. These two hate each other,” said Scott Galloway, a New York University marketing professor and author of “The Four,” a book about the dominance of Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google.
“There was Ali-Frazier. Now there’s nerd vs. nerd,” he said.
Wednesday’s move by Apple had been almost a year in the making. In March 2018, with Facebook reeling from reports about the political consultant firm Cambridge Analytica’s collection of Facebook user data, Cook had said on MSNBC that ad-supported tech firms turn the user into the product. Zuckerberg respondedthat Cook’s views were “not at all aligned with the truth.” The companies have also feuded over online tracking, which Apple has tried to limit through its Safari web browser.