Mark Zuckerberg is set to testify before US Congress this week as his apology tour rolls on, but the Facebook CEO’s newfound humility has done little to stem the flood of criticism hitting his company. The latest high-profile critic to jump into the fray is Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.
It’s been about three weeks since the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke and Facebook users began to truly recognise how reckless Facebook can be with their data. Zuckerberg has been frantically trying to reassure the public that Facebook knows it “needs to do a better job” and that’s why a lot of features that could have rolled out years ago are going live. But for observers such as Wozniak, there’s little the social network can do because its fundamental business model is the problem.
In a goodbye message he posted on Facebook yesterday, Wozniak said he’s leaving the site that has brought him “more negatives than positives”. He has since deactivated his account, but not deleted it, telling USA Today he wants to retain the “stevewoz” user name.
“Users provide every detail of their life to Facebook and … Facebook makes a lot of advertising money off this,” the Woz told the paper. “The profits are all based on the user’s info, but the users get none of the profits back.” Echoing Apple CEO Tim Cook’s recent comments, Wozniak said that it would be better to just pay Facebook directly for use of the network, adding, “with Facebook, you are the product”.
Cook’s criticisms were previewed almost two weeks ago, but the full interview with Recode and MSNBC ran over the weekend. He went further than Wozniak, saying that not only has the Facebook model demonstrated itself to be untenable, Apple thinks it should never exist in the first place. “Look, we’ve never believed that these detailed profiles of people – that has incredibly deep personal information that is patched together from several sources – should exist,” he said. In Apple’s view, he said, all of these connective data points could be used in devious ways, and is one of the things that is “possible in life but shouldn’t exist”. After saying that he’s typically not a fan of regulations, he went as far as to suggest Facebook shouldn’t be allowed to exist.
In an interview with Vox last week, Zuckerberg called Cook’s comments “extremely glib and not at all aligned with the truth”. He argued that a lot of people can’t afford to pay and Facebook seeks to make a product that connects everyone in the world. Of course, Zuckerberg’s big idea has always just been the internet. He wants an internet inside the internet. And when Facebook has attempted to launch a basic internet service that people pay for with their data, it’s been met with accusations of “digital colonialism” and being a backdoor violation of net neutrality.
This is a case of three wildly rich men trying to publicly hash out what’s best for the public, and it’s tough to say that any of them are free of hypocrisy in this situation. But considering the news that Zuckerberg had a special tool to delete his messages from other users’ inboxes, all three men can probably agree with Cook’s assertion that Facebook is just “creepy“.