Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has found himself with few friends in Silicon Valley in the wake of the massive data harvesting scandal.
Tim Cook and Elon Musk are perhaps the highest profile tech leaders to criticize Facebook for playing fast and loose with user data – along with Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff and Whatspp founder Brian Acton, whose company Facebook bought for $22 billion.
Other tech leaders have remained quiet as the scandal has unfolded – which as Bloomberg notes, is unusual for Silicon Valley execs who traditionally circle the wagon when a peer is having a crisis.
Facebook has sought to repair its public image and trust with more than 2 billion users after reports surfaced that Cambridge Analytica obtained data on as many 50 million of those U.S. accounts. As Zuckerberg, 33, faces calls to testify before Congress and lawmakers raise the idea of new regulations on tech, his peers have either stayed quiet or publicly criticized his company. In times of crisis, tech companies have sometimes huddled together to defend the industry, such as when Apple fought the FBI to protect an encrypted iPhone and during President Donald Trump’s proposed immigration ban last year against mostly Muslim countries.
When James Comey’s FBI came banging on Apple’s door asking them to decrypt an iPhone linked to the 2015 San Bernardino attack in which married couple Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik shot up a San Bernardino County Christmas party, killing 14 and injuring 22 – Facebook, Google, Microsoft and other big tech firms rallied around Tim Cook after the Apple CEO refused to comply.
The FBI was eventually able to unlock Farook’s phone after a “mysterious third party” showed them how to bypass Apple security protocols.
“Protecting privacy is good for business now,” said Gennie Gebhart, a researcher at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a digital privacy rights group. “Users are looking for other big tech personalities like Tim Cook, like Elon Musk, to be reassured that they’re not doing what Facebook did.”
Cook was asked about Facebook’s privacy crisis last month and called for stronger regulation of user data. Then, in an interview with Recode and MSNBC, Cook said he “wouldn’t be in this situation” if he were in Zuckerberg’s shoes. While Facebook makes money selling targeted advertisements based on user data, Apple’s profit comes from hardware products like the iPhone, iPad, and Mac.
Zuckerberg slapped back at Cook, telling Vox “I find that argument — that if you’re not paying, that somehow we can’t care about you — to be extremely glib and not at all aligned with the truth.”
“There are a lot of people who can’t afford to pay” for a service, while having an “advertising-supported model is the only rational model that can support building this service to reach people,” Zuckerberg said. “If you want to build a service which is not just serving rich people, then you need to have something that people can afford.”