Mark Zuckerberg painted a biting contrast with Apple on privacy, saying Facebook has sacrificed business to protect users

Mark Zuckerberg painted a biting contrast with Apple on privacy, saying Facebook has sacrificed business to protect users

Mark Zuckerberg

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday said Facebook would emphasize protecting users' privacy in its future product development.

  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appeared to take aim at Apple on Wednesday in the companies' ongoing battle over privacy.
  • The social networking company won't set up data centers in countries with poor human-rights records, he said.
  • That stance has caused it to lose business, but it's a "tradeoff we're willing to make," he said.
  • Zuckerberg didn't mention Apple, but it seemed clear that he was making a contrast with the iPhone maker.
  • Apple last year set up a data center in China so it could continue to offer its iCloud services there.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday took a thinly veiled shot at Apple, by casting the social network as a defender of privacy willing to resist cooperating with governments that have poor human rights records.

The comments, in a lengthy blog post by Zuckerberg on Wednesday, drew an implicit contrast with Apple's controversial practices in China and marked the latest flare-up in a long-running battle between the two tech giants over consumer privacy.

The social-networking company has sacrificed business to protect its customers, Zuckerberg said. Facebook has intentionally chosen not to put its servers in countries that have a poor track record on human rights, even though those decisions have meant that it can't offer its services in those places, he said.  

"That's a tradeoff we're willing to make," Zuckerberg said. "I think it's important for the future of the internet and privacy," he continued, "that our industry continues to hold firm against storing people's data in places where it won't be secure." 


Zuckerberg didn't mention Apple by name, but the contrast he was drawing between his company and the iPhone maker was clear to people who have followed the feud between the two. Last year, Apple set up a data center China to host the local version of its iCloud online services there in response to new laws. The data center is being operated by a Chinese company, which has raised alarms among privacy advocates, concerned that it would allow the Chinese government to more easily get access to its citizens' personal data.

Facebook, by contrast, has been blocked in China since 2009 and doesn't have any data centers there.

The statement from Zuckerberg "is a massive shot across [Apple CEO] Tim Cook's bow," Alex Stamos, Facebook's former cybersecurity chief, said in a tweet. "Expect to hear a lot about [iCloud] and China every time Cook is sanctimonious."

Zuckerberg and Cook have been fighting about privacy

Cook has tried to position Apple as the tech industry's paragon for privacy protection and has sought to contrast his company's practices with those of its rivals. Unlike Facebook, Google, and other online giants, Apple isn't dependent on advertising and limits the amount of data it collects from users of its devices and services. It also has emphasized the security of its phones and services such as iMessage.

As part of his privacy push, Cook has repeatedly criticized Facebook's privacy practices, particularly in the wake of the social-networking giant's Cambridge Analytica scandal last year. Just last week, at Apple's annual shareholder meeting, he again seemed to take aim at Facebook, saying that the practice of collecting detailed information about consumers and using it to divide them from each other - as has allegedly happened on the social network - "should not exist." 


Read this: Apple CEO Tim Cook hit out at companies like Facebook again: Anything that collects personal data and uses it against customers 'should not exist'

For his part, Zuckerberg has bristled at the criticism and even ordered Facebook executives to ditch their iPhones for Android devices.

But both sides have notable shortcomings in their arguments. Facebook and Zuckerberg have repeatedly tried to court Chinese officials and have explored numerous ways of offering their services there. Apple, meanwhile, does collect some data on its users for services such as its Siri voice assistant and its Maps applications, and it gets billions of dollars in revenue each year from Google for making the search giant its default search service on the iPhone.