Mark Zuckerberg Rebuts Tim Cook: Companies That Charge You More Don't Necessarily Care About You More

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has countered the argument that companies without an ad-supported business model are better off.

tim cook mark zuckerberg
"You know, I find that argument, that if you're not paying that somehow we can't care about you, to be extremely glib," said Zuckerberg, in an interview with Vox's Ezra Klein. "And not at all aligned with the truth."

"The reality here is that if you want to build a service that helps connect everyone in the world, then there are a lot of people who can't afford to pay. And therefore, as with a lot of media, having an advertising-supported model is the only rational model that can support building this service to reach people."

Last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook told Recode's Kara Swisher and MSNBC's Chris Hayes that his company "could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer," but added "we've elected not to do that."

Apple's business model is primarily focused on selling products like iPhones and iPads to customers, rather than targeting users with advertisements based on their personal information. Facebook, on the other hand, is a free service that relies on ads for a significant portion of its revenue.

Cook, who said Apple views privacy as a "human right," believes that Facebook shouldn't have the ability to collect as much information as it does.

"The ability of anyone to know what you've been browsing about for years, who your contacts are, who their contacts are, things you like and dislike and every intimate detail of your life -- from my own point of view it shouldn't exist," said Cook, speaking at the annual China Development Forum last week.

Zuckerberg argued that while Facebook is "squarely in the camp of the companies that work hard to charge you less and provide a free service that everyone can use," it doesn't mean the company doesn't care about people.

"I don't think at all that that means that we don't care about people. To the contrary, I think it's important that we don't all get Stockholm Syndrome and let the companies that work hard to charge you more convince you that they actually care more about you. Because that sounds ridiculous to me."

Zuckerberg's comments follow last month's revelation that data firm Cambridge Analytica used personal information harvested from more than 50 million Facebook profiles without permission to build a system that could target U.S. voters with personalized political ads based on their psychological profile.

Cook said the situation "is so dire and has become so large that probably some well-crafted regulation is necessary." He also made the mic-drop comment that he "wouldn't be in this situation" if he were Zuckerberg.

The entire question and answer is embedded below.

Ezra Klein
One of the things that has been coming up a lot in the conversation is whether the business model of monetizing user attention is what is letting in a lot of these problems. Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, gave an interview the other day and he was asked what he would do if he was in your shoes. He said, “I wouldn't be in this situation,” and argued that Apple sells products to users, it doesn't sell users to advertisers, and so it's a sounder business model that doesn't open itself to these problems.

Do you think part of the problem here is the business model where attention ends up dominating above all else and so anything that can engage has powerful value within the ecosystem?

Mark Zuckerberg
You know, 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. The reality here is that if you want to build a service that helps connect everyone in the world, then there are a lot of people who can't afford to pay. And therefore, as with a lot of media, having an advertising-supported model is the only rational model that can support building this service to reach people.

That doesn't mean that we're not primarily focused on serving people. I think probably to the dissatisfaction of our sales team here, I make all of our decisions based on what's going to matter to our community and focus much less on the advertising side of the business.

But if you want to build a service which is not just serving rich people, then you need to have something that people can afford. I thought Jeff Bezos had an excellent saying on this in one of his Kindle launches a number of years back. He said, “There are companies that work hard to charge you more, and there are companies that work hard to charge you less.” And at Facebook, we are squarely in the camp of the companies that work hard to charge you less and provide a free service that everyone can use.

I don't think at all that that means that we don't care about people. To the contrary, I think it's important that we don't all get Stockholm Syndrome and let the companies that work hard to charge you more convince you that they actually care more about you. Because that sounds ridiculous to me.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

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Top Rated Comments

BenTrovato Avatar
81 months ago
Not that Mark's point is invalid, but with what he and Facebook just did (or have been doing for years), he's the last person who should be commenting on caring for people right now.
Score: 164 Votes (Like | Disagree)
hlfway2anywhere Avatar
81 months ago
Offering free, advisement based service is different than selling and exploiting customer data.
Score: 112 Votes (Like | Disagree)
paulvee Avatar
81 months ago
Zuckerberg is a pathological BS artist.
Score: 94 Votes (Like | Disagree)
deanthedev Avatar
81 months ago
Nice deflection, Zuck.

Nobody is claiming ad-supported services are wrong. Radio and TV are ad-supported (for example). They don’t require a complete profile of me or extensive data mining of users to work. And they won’t ever fall victim to a data breach.
Score: 61 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Braderunner Avatar
81 months ago
Apple: "How much can we sell to our customers"?
Facebook: "How much of our customer can we sell"?
Score: 54 Votes (Like | Disagree)
tdar Avatar
81 months ago
Maybe Mark should go into politics. Because that was one fine bit of political spin. The problem is not that they are advertiser supported. MacRumors is advertiser supported. The problem is what as Tim Cook put it so well,they have monetized their customers. Advertiser supported sites would have no reason to collect the phone number of everyone you call or text or that call you. They don't have reason to turn on the camera, or the microphone on your phone and spy on you. They don't have reason to collect all of this data and then to link it together with analytics that is so sophisticated, it can identify you in a picture even if your face is not visible. They don't have reason to sell all of this data to who ever has the money to buy it. It's not that it is advertiser supported. Because that is not what Facebook is.
Score: 44 Votes (Like | Disagree)