How Apple’s warm relationship with Facebook slid into cold war

A 30-minute conversation between New York Times’ political reporter Astead Herndon and tech reporter Mike Isaac.

From The Daily podcast “Apple vs. Facebook,” which aired Tuesday:

Recently, Apple released a seemingly innocuous software update: a new privacy feature that would explicitly ask iPhone users whether an app should be allowed to track them across the other apps and sites that they use.

For Facebook, however, this feature is anything but innocuous — it strikes at the heart of the company’s business model. Facebook has taken Apple’s move as a direct statement of competition, and has decided to fight back.

The dispute represents a further deterioration in the frosty relations between the two companies and their chief executives Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook, a decade-long cold war that is at once personal and professional.

What’s at the heart of this conflict, and why have the stakes become so high for both of these companies?

My take: A satisfyingly deep dive, and one of the most even-handed analyses I’ve heard.


  1. David Emery said:
    Without listening to the podcast, it seemed to me that Apple, particularly under Cook, was a company built on a strong sense of ethics that included but was not totally about making money. On the other hand, Facebook feels like a company fueled solely on profit, where ethics isn’t even part of the discussion.

    How far is that from the premise of the podcast?

    May 11, 2021
  2. Fred Stein said:
    1) NYT omits Jobs blunt stance against tracking, at All things D. It started with Jobs.
    2) Cook took a high risk stance against the FBI re privacy over the San Bernardino massacre. NYT claims Cook only dialed it up after the Analytica exposure.
    3) FB is not a competitor. Does NYT really not understand this?
    4) NYT quotes Zuck’s claim that iPhones are elitist with $1200 prices. Blatant distortion and unchallenged
    5) Zuck’s bogus claim of Stockholm syndrome should also be challenged, not repeated.

    May 11, 2021
  3. Fred Stein said:
    NYT claims Apple’s privacy is ‘just marketing’ means they either:
    1) Don’t see the liability of tracking.
    2) They get it, but like to juice the bogus narrative that privacy is just branding.

    May 11, 2021
  4. Fred Stein said:
    At the end, NYT claims that AAPL and FB are locked in some winner take all struggle.

    Now it’s clear. They don’t get it. Not at all.

    PS: I grew up revering the NYT.

    May 11, 2021
  5. David Emery said:
    Fred, where’s the “very angry” comment reaction button?

    I’d go further. “does not get it” implies some degree of inadvertent behavior. This sure smells like -deliberate miscasting-.

    A credible deep dive should have taken corporate culture into consideration. Seems that NYT deliberately does not think that’s relevant. Maybe that’s because NYT has -lost its corporate culture- in its quest for “clicks” (including Pulitzers.)

    May 11, 2021
    • John Konopka said:
      I used to respect the NYT, but that has been gone for a long time. They have some really good reporters who do good work, but otherwise they can be really wrong.

      May 11, 2021
      • Robert Stack said:
        @John: I may be in the minority these days, but I still respect the NYT with one major exception: their tech coverage, which is terrible. Brian Chen and Shira Ovide are not insightful at all, and both are horribly biased against Apple. Sadly, it’s been all downhill since Pogue left…

        May 11, 2021
    • Fred Stein said:
      Yes, David. Please see my option 2) in the second comment..” They get it, but like to juice…”

      May 11, 2021
  6. Fred Stein said:
    Just went back to June 2010 All Things D, where Kara (NYT) sat next to Jobs. Starting at 1:10 Steve outlines Apple’s (not just his) stance on privacy – virtually NOTHING has changed.

    The nicest thing to say about NYT is confirmation bias. Whether Kara or Mike, they just discard anything that does not fit their story.

    The whole event on YouTube is worth the time. Apple could play excepts from that in the current Epic trial.

    May 11, 2021
  7. Daniel Epstein said:
    I have read The NY Times for much of my life and while it is a wonderful newspaper it does seem to have some blind spots and biases that have shown up over the years. The NY Times has had trouble dealing with Apple as a subject for quite some time. Maybe they think Apple is trying to take advantage of them in the marketplace. They did drop out of business deals complaining Apple was not sharing enough of the money with them. Investigative reports on working conditions in China have also been part of the Time’s world so it is hard for the Times to give Apple positive credit generally. There are other examples of the Times not starting with a clean slate with people. One should never rely on a single news source for information no matter how good they are overall.

    May 11, 2021
  8. Peter Kropf said:
    Anyone remember Judith Miller, NYT White House reporter, who helped spread the lies that got us into Iraq?

    If the NYT had reported, as the McClathchey news syndicate did, that the yellowcake Iraqi uranium AND the aluminum tubes for refining Iraqi uranium were outright lies, we might not have invaded Iraq.

    Mistreating and being wrong about Apple isn’t the same as Iraq.

    May 11, 2021
  9. Daniel Epstein said:
    Having now listened to the podcast I can say the Host seems to think that Apple was most likely acting out of malice towards Facebook to somehow make more money. He doesn’t seem to think Facebook had overstepped its bounds with its tracking. Now we know Apple is a money making business so they are not innocent in all things about money and deals. What they do seem to have identified in this case is Apps should not be able to get information from users outside of what they reveal in using the App itself without opting in to outside the app tracking. Apple is okay with using info inside the App that the user reveals but not with tracking the user anywhere they go when not in the original App. The difference between trying to be useful and being creepy. Not a simple distinction but noteworthy.

    May 11, 2021
  10. Wow. Hadn’t expected such a strong reaction. Made me doubt my news judgement. So I took some comfort that CNN’s Reliable Sources found the podcast useful:

    — This episode of “The Daily” is an excellent primer on Apple vs. Facebook: “How a routine-looking software update became a major confrontation in the long-running conflict between two of the world’s largest tech companies…” (NYT)

    May 12, 2021

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