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Apple vs. Facebook: Steve Jobs’ legacy and the battle for privacy

11 min read
  • According to Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs was adamant that Apple shouldn’t launch a social media network.
  • Apple continues to be ‘a force of good’ in tech and privacy remains a core value, claims Isaacson.
  • This comes as Apple institutes robust tracking restrictions within iOS, much to Facebook’s dismay.

Lately, Apple and Facebook have been warring over the future of mobile privacy and advertising. Facebook has published numerous duplicitous statements boldly accusing Apple’s policies of ending “the free internet” and being “about profit, not privacy” in a desperate attempt to slander Apple’s reputation and manipulate consumers into fighting against Apple’s pro-privacy changes within iOS. Or, at least to fight against what Facebook wants people to think Apple is. These changes from Apple require users to grant apps permission to track them across multiple apps and websites, cracking down on massive surveillance of devices. This policy doesn’t prevent apps from gaining access to highly personal user data, it simply gives users the right to say no and the choice to protect their privacy.

We believe that this is a simple matter of standing up for our users. Users should know when their data is being collected and shared across other apps and websites — and they should have the choice to allow that or not. App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 does not require Facebook to change its approach to tracking users and creating targeted advertising, it simply requires they give users a choice. — Apple

To say that Facebook's smear campaign against Apple’s multiple consumer privacy-first policies blew the policies themselves completely out of proportion would be an understatement. All the while, more regulators and users alike are voicing even more concerns on Facebook's handling of user data, adding to the years of controversy regarding Facebook’s privacy measures, or lack thereof. Many people from within Apple and outside the company have corroborated claims of Apple’s commitment to privacy as a core value. In January, Tim Cook spoke sternly about the dim future for user privacy and the uphill battle consumers and companies alike face in changing the way big tech treats data.

The fact is that an interconnected ecosystem of companies and data brokers, purveyors of fake news and peddlers of division, of trackers and hucksters just looking to make a quick buck is more present in our lives than it has ever been. It has never been so clear how it degrades our fundamental right to privacy first and our social fabric by consequence. — Tim Cook

Walter Isaacson has made comments on recent developments in the Apple vs. Facebook saga and regarding social media and privacy at Apple in general. Isaacson was the biographer of Steve Jobs’ critically acclaimed self-titled biography and spent years rigorously studying Jobs and Apple as a company. During an interview with Yahoo Finance on Friday, Isaacson discussed the flaws of Facebook and other social media networks with their divisive algorithms that incentivise the spread of disinformation and anger, as well as Apple’s path towards humane technology and how tech needs to help society.

During an interview with Yahoo Finance on Friday, Isaacson said:

I think we always have to worry about whether tech is a force for good. I think Apple actually is, in general, because it's both protecting our privacy, and it's not basing its entire business model on the advertising model, which means harvesting all of your information and microtargeting things to you... He (Steve Jobs) was very careful in making sure that people had control of their technology instead of the technology having control of them.

The main purpose of the Yahoo interview was to discuss Isaacson’s new book "The Code Breaker”, however, the interview later branched into other topics such as the high profile battle between Apple and Facebook. Isaacson suggests Facebook and Twitter need to take responsibility for the harm their algorithms have caused, and their unnerving ability to "incent people to get enraged and pass along misinformation." Isaacson has repeated his belief that Jobs remains “a model to me of how people should approach the digital age. And that's why he wasn't that comfortable with social media and social networks." Apple has continued to respect Jobs’ philosophy by implementing various privacy focused changes across their multiple platforms, despite acrimonious criticism from Facebook and other data brokers.

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