Social media leader Facebook and the presiding deity of the devices market, Apple, are trading charges about privacy infringements in their respective business practices.

Facebook has accused Apple of utilizing monopolistic tactics to push out the competition after it accused the social media platform of using shady data collection practices.

The disagreement between the two Silicon Valley honchos broke out after Apple wrote a letter to a pro-privacy civil rights group assuring them that it will be introducing new privacy restrictions on its latest iOS 14 operating system.

Apple and Facebook on Privacy Issues & Data Sharing

Facebook Apple Issue
In the letter, it said that Facebook’s business model — which relies on collecting user data from its platform as well as from browsing activity to target advertising — showed the company had a “disregard for user privacy”. Apple added that its own ad business model was “privacy-forward”.  It emphasized that it required apps offered on its system to get users’ explicit permission to gather ad targeting and tracking data.

The restriction on Apple’s OS was delayed a little as the developers were not prepared to add the restrictions in place. Also, the new requirements will cut down the revenue of ad-reliant businesses of some of these developers.

Facebook came out with a rebuttal to Apple’s claims, highlighting the alleged dubious activities indulged in by Apple. Facebook said the iPhone maker’s letter was a deliberate “distraction” to countermand accusations from the privacy activist Max Schrems that Apple is tracking people’s private data from their personal computers without the customers’ knowledge.

Apple has denied the allegations and called them inaccurate. Facebook’s letter also said Apple was using its “dominant market position to self-preference their own data collection while making it nearly impossible for their competitors to use the same data”.

Privacy Issues & Data Sharing

“They claim it’s about privacy, but it’s about profit,” Facebook said. “We are not fooled. This is all part of a transformation of Apple’s business away from innovative hardware products to data-driven software and media.”

The accusations come amidst increased scrutiny from world regulations bodies against the privacy breaches and monopolistic practices of the big five tech companies.

Washington is aggressively pursuing technology companies for their antitrust practices.  The Justice Department recently sued Google for its monopoly power in search and target advertising. This is the first such action against any technology company in the last 20 years.

The House Judiciary Committee also recently recommended that big tech platforms and companies, including Facebook, Amazon, Apple, and Google, be broken up in smaller entities.

These major tech companies are together valued at $5 trillion. Such capital power is bound to attract scrutiny.

Apple has also come under fire over its 30 percent commission on developers’ revenues from its App Store. Epic Games even brought in a suit against Apple for the same issue. But recently, Apple announced that it is halving the rate for small businesses.

Facebook has protested against Apple’s iOS 14 plans, saying that the measures would hurt the social media company’s revenues. Facebook argues that the tracking restrictions would be damaging to small businesses on its platform by hampering their ability “to accurately target and measure their [advertising] campaigns”.

Publishers, app makers and adtech groups have also protested against the changes.
Online trade groups have filed a legal complaint with the French Competition Authority to block Apple’s restrictions on its developers who want to use the iOS 14.

They are arguing that Apple itself does not follow such stringent privacy measures for its own devices and businesses.

Apple has answered that its advertising model would be subject to the same restrictions as other developers and that the purpose of the restrictions is for greater control by the customers over their data, rather than to boot out any competition.

A class-action suit against Apple has been filed in the US District Court of Northern California for the “predatory practice” of allowing loot boxes in its App Store. “Through the games it sells and offers for free to consumers through its AppStore, Apple engages in predatory practices enticing consumers, including children to engage in gambling and similar addictive conduct in violation of this and other laws designed to protect consumers and to prohibit such practices,” reads the filing.

The lawsuit claims that Apple indulges in unlawful and unfair business practices, unfair and deceptive acts and practices, and unfair enrichment.