At a private meeting on the sidelines of an informal gathering of tech and social media executives in July of 2019 in Sun Valley, Idaho, Apple CEO Tim Cook urged Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg to delete all user information his company has collected from third-party apps, according to The New York Times.
According to the Times, the executives met annually at the conference organized by investment bank Allen & Company to “catch up” and attempt to “repair their fraying relationship.”
In particular, this meeting in the summer of 2019 came as Facebook was embroiled in a massive scandal involving Cambridge Analytica. Facebook had come under intense scrutiny for sharing the information of more than 50 million users, without their consent, with voter-profiling firm Cambridge Analytica to use for political ads during the 2016 Presidental election.
During their meeting, Zuckerberg reportedly asked Cook how he would deal with the situation. He responded that Facebook should delete user information it has collected from third-party apps.
At the meeting, Mr. Zuckerberg asked Mr. Cook how he would handle the fallout from the controversy, people with knowledge of the conversation said. Mr. Cook responded acidly that Facebook should delete any information that it had collected about people outside of its core apps.
According to people with direct knowledge of the meeting, Zuckerberg was “stunned” by Cook’s answer given the fact that Facebook’s business model consists of user data and using the data to provide more personalized ads. Zuckerberg interpreted Cook’s answer as the CEO saying his business was “untenable.”
During a TV interview with MSNBC in 2018, Cook was pressed on how he would deal with the situation Zuckerberg found himself in. “I wouldn’t be in this situation,” Cook responded.
The two executives and companies have rarely seen eye-to-eye, and the tension between the two is likely to reach its peak this week. In the coming days, Apple will release iOS and iPadOS 14.5 with ATT or App Tracking Transparency, which will crack down on apps tracking users across other apps and websites without their consent.
Once the iOS update is released, all apps, including Facebook, will be required to ask for a user’s permission before tracking them across apps and websites owned by other companies. Users can accept to be tracked or not. If the latter, Apple will block that app from collecting data about the users from other apps and services.
Facebook has blasted the new change as unfair, calling it a severe blow to small businesses which use the Facebook platform and its accompanying ad business to run personalized ads for users. Facebook expects the majority of users to opt-out of tracking, which will, in turn, lead to less effective data for the social media giant to use to deliver tailored, personalized ads.
Despite his initial rejection of ATT, Mark Zuckerberg has recently changed tones on Apple’s upcoming change. In a Clubhouse meeting earlier last month, the CEO says that Facebook may “be in a stronger position” due to the upcoming change possibly encouraging more businesses to “conduct more commerce on our platforms by making it harder for them to use their data in order to find the customers that would want to use their products outside of our platforms.”
In public appearances and interviews in the run-up to the launch of ATT, Cook has said Apple is looking to provide users a choice about whether they wished to be tracked or not. In a recent speech at a privacy conference, Cook indirectly called out social media companies, including Facebook, that fuel disinformation and conspiracy theories with their algorithms.