Apple CEO Tim Cook and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg might run two giant tech companies just a short drive down Route 101 from each other in Silicon Valley, but there’s no love lost between the two moguls.
Now it’s on the record — in an official company statement from Facebook.
In response to a blockbuster New York Times report on how Facebook responded to a series of privacy scandals, Facebook published a lengthy blog post on Thursday morning.
One item was about Cook:
5. Android: Tim Cook has consistently criticized our business model and Mark has been equally clear he disagrees. So there’s been no need to employ anyone else to do this for us. And we’ve long encouraged our employees and executives to use Android because it is the most popular operating system in the world.
This was in response to The Times’ implication that Zuckerberg hadordered his executives to stop using iPhones and use Android instead because he was personally upset with Cook.
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Here’s the Times passage:
“We’re not going to traffic in your personal life,” Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said in an MSNBC interview. “Privacy to us is a human right. It’s a civil liberty.” (Mr. Cook’s criticisms infuriated Mr. Zuckerberg, who later ordered his management team to use only Android phones — arguing that the operating system had far more users than Apple’s.)
The enmity between the two technology executives goes back years but heated up earlier this year when Recode’s Kara Swisher asked Cook a question about the Cambridge Analytica incident, in which private Facebook user data was stolen from 50 million users. She asked if the Apple CEO was in Zuckerberg’s place, “What would you do?”
He answered: “What would I do? I wouldn’t be in this situation.”
Zuckerberg later hit back, calling Cook’s criticism “extremely glib.”
In the statement, in which a Facebook representative writes “there’s been no need to employ anyone else to do this for us,” the “anyone else” is referring to Definers Public Affairs, a firm of Republican political operatives that Facebook hired, which the Times report revealed had spread documents with political-style opposition research to reporters.
However, the conflict between Cook and Zuckerberg first arose at least four years ago.
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Cook said in an interview with Charlie Rose in 2014 that “when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product.”
This apparently got under Zuckerberg’s skin even back then, with a journalist from Time noticing the tension in a profile of the Facebook founder:
It’s remarkable that this spat between publicly traded giants has spilled out of quips and interviews into a public Facebook crisis PR statement.