Mark Zuckerberg has rejected Apple CEO Tim Cook’s claim that "when an online service is free, you’re not the customer. You’re the product." In a feature for Time on Facebook’s Internet.org project, the social network’s founder was reportedly irritated by the notion that ad-supported services are bad for users, describing it as a "ridiculous concept".
"You think because you're paying Apple that you're somehow in alignment with them?"
"A frustration I have is that a lot of people increasingly seem to equate an advertising businessmodel with somehow being out of alignment with your customers," said Zuckerberg. "What, you think because you’re paying Apple that you’re somehow in alignment with them? If you were in alignment with them, then they’d make their products a lot cheaper!"
Zuckerberg was referring to comments made by Cook in September when the Apple chief defended the company's approach to security after hundreds of nude and private images of celebrities were stolen from iCloud. Cook said at the time that he didn’t want the company to become a "treasure trove" of user data for the National Security Agency (NSA) and warned consumers to stay clear of companies offering "free" services.
"I think everyone has to ask, how do companies make their money?" said Cook. "Follow the money. And if they're making money mainly by collecting gobs of personal data, I think you have a right to be worried."
Although no companies were directly named, it was assumed that Cook was referring to both Google and Facebook. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt offered a similar rebuttal to Cook in October, saying his company had the best encryption standards in the industry and that the Apple chief hadn't been briefed "correctly" on his rivals.
Nevertheless, this ideological stance has been growing in influence in recent years and even inspired the creation of alternative social network Ello, which asks users to agree that they’re "not a product" during the sign-up process and has become a public-benefit corporation to legally prohibit it from selling ads. Zuckerberg however is skeptical of this approach, telling Time that Ello won’t ever grow with such a business model. "Our mission is to connect every person in the world," he said. "You don’t do that by having a service people pay for."