The gloves are coming off.
Mark Zuckerberg publicly responded Monday to Apple CEO Tim Cook’s harsh criticism about the way Facebook handles the private information of its users. He called Cook’s argument “extremely glib.”
The tiff between two of the most powerful men in Silicon Valley started last week when Cook was asked what he would do if he were Zuckerberg in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. He responded with a curt answer: “I wouldn’t be in this situation.”
The Apple CEO went on to denounce social media platforms for monetizing users and their corresponding private data. His larger point was that social media services are free, but in order to remain that way, the companies must sell advertising based on some user information. Of course, Zuckerberg defended this practice.
“You know, I find that argument, that if you’re not paying that somehow we can’t care about you, to be extremely glib,” Zuckerberg said in a recent Ezra Klein Show podcast published by Vox.
“And not at all aligned with the truth,” Zuckerberg added. “The reality here is that if you want to build a service that helps connect everyone in the world, then there are a lot of people who can’t afford to pay. And therefore, as with a lot of media, having an advertising-supported model is the only rational model that can support building this service to reach people.”
What’s perhaps most shocking in this feud between two of the world’s richest people is that Zuckerberg dragged another billionaire into the conversation. “I thought Jeff Bezos had an excellent saying on this in one of his Kindle launches a number of years back,” Zuckerberg said in the Ezra Klein interview.
“He said, ‘There are companies that work hard to charge you more, and there are companies that work hard to charge you less.’ And at Facebook, we are squarely in the camp of the companies that work hard to charge you less and provide a free service that everyone can use.”
The 33-year-old billionaire finished his thought by saying that he thought it was absurd to think that charging customers money was the best way to show you have their interest in mind.
“To the contrary, I think it’s important that we don’t all get Stockholm Syndrome and let the companies that work hard to charge you more convince you that they actually care more about you,” he said. “Because that sounds ridiculous to me.”
As for who has the last laugh, that appears to be pretty heavily favoring Mr. Cook at the moment. Facebook lost more than $40 billion in market value in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica user privacy controversy.
The devaluation of its stock bumped Facebook out of the S&P 500’s five biggest market caps. The distinction is now held by Apple, Google’s parent company Alphabet, Amazon, Microsoft, and Berkshire Hathaway.