Apple is now in hot water for alleged anti-competitive practices against screen-time trackers, banning almost a dozen of these apps for reasons it says are based on privacy and security. It’s also no secret that Apple’s battle with Spotify is intensifying in Europe. In March, Spotify accused Apple of anti-competitive practices before the European Commission. Spotify even has a gripe site here. You can read Apple’s response to it here. This article isn’t about throwing any stones in Apple’s various tiffs. Whether a platform manager is abusing its unique role as both umpire and player requires a fact-intensive inquiry, and we have no special insight into this one.
Rather, in light of the fact that Apple is already facing serious scrutiny for its practices, and in light of the fact that Apple’s practices are child’s play compared to what Facebook has done for the past decade, we ask you simply to imagine with us what would happen to Tim Cook if Apple had done the same exact thing to its App Store that Zuckerberg did to Facebook Platform.
Imagine if Tim Cook woke up one morning and told Apple’s Apps team: “Call up Pandora and Spotify and tell them we’re going to shut them out of iPhones unless they pony up millions of dollars over to us!”
Imagine if Tim then walked over to Apple’s PR team and told them to issue a statement right away saying: Apple welcomes all music applications to compete with Apple Music on a level playing field — come build your music apps on iPhones. The applications people like the best will win the market!
Imagine if Tim also told his PR team to prepare a statement saying — Pandora and Spotify shut out of iPhones for violating user privacy and Apple’s policies — but to release the statement only if Pandora and Spotify didn’t pony up a bunch of cash.
Imagine if, later that day, the Apps team reported back to Tim: “Pandora and Spotify aren’t happy — they’re thinking of going to the press!” Tim responds:
“Tell them if they don’t agree we’re going to use our influence over the media to convince the world they violated user privacy and that we shut them off because they don’t care about the security of people’s data. We have this vague policy called ‘reciprocity’ that lets us do whatever we want and get away with it. But…also tell them that if they do pony up the cash, we’ll funnel iPhone users’ contact lists over to them without the users having to provide permission, so they can start acquiring new users through their existing user base way more easily than they do now. Oh, and tell them that we’re planning on shutting down Amazon Music and Google Play Music so all the users of those apps are going to have to start using Apple, Pandora, or Spotify. See what they think now….”
Now imagine if, at the end of the day, the Apps team walked into Tim’s office and said: “Tim, we did it — Pandora and Spotify just loaded up our coffers!”
Imagine if Tim then smiled and picked up the phone to tell his PR team: “Hey, PR folks! Release that statement I had you prepare earlier, but change the names from Pandora and Spotify to Amazon and Google. When reporters call us up, issue this statement: They violated our policies and the privacy of our users, but we can’t comment on the specifics of our enforcement decisions.”
Now imagine if Tim turned to his team and said: “Hey team, wasn’t that fun?! We’re all a little bit richer now! We’re gonna do that every day for the next five or so years and when people start complaining about the inevitable privacy violations that are going to happen, let’s use those complaints as an excuse to shut down pretty much every possible competitor, so all the people that rely on our platform pretty much have to use only our apps. Oh, and let’s start building apps for pretty much everything a person can do, so we are ready to take full advantage of that holy day when it finally comes! Boy, all this great work has made me really hungry. Everyone now has to come over to my place to tell me how brilliant I am while I smoke some meats!”
Imagine if people finally found out this was how Tim spent his days for many years. What would happen to Tim?
First, Tim’s board would investigate him and eventually fire him.
Second, Tim would be subject to a criminal investigation and likely would no longer be permitted to run a software company for the rest of his life.
Third, Tim would have to return many many billions of dollars to all the people and companies he defrauded.
In short, Tim would be ruined — and justice would be served.
That this would almost certainly happen to Tim but still has not happened, and likely never will happen, to Mark and Sheryl should scare us all to our very core. It is encouraging to see Senator Wyden and others seek to hold Zuckerberg personally accountable going forward. But what about the past? What about how Facebook acquired and maintained its monopoly over our digital lives? What dollar amount of fines is an adequate price to pay for maliciously selling the private data of 2 billion people and destroying more than 40,000 businesses? There is none.
There is no amount of money you could make Zuckerberg pay that would change that calculus for him or prevent him from doing it again. When the other side of that equation is “world domination,” you could put any amount in front of “billion” and Mark and Sheryl would still view it as a cheap price to pay. This is why the only effective path forward for the U.S. government, if it truly wishes to prevent this massive abuse and deception from happening again, is to hold Zuckerberg criminally liable now and to move forward with a case against him and Facebook in the federal courts.
That this has not happened and likely will not happen is why we wake up every morning continuing our fight. You can count on Six4Three to do its part to fight for justice. We have self-funded and haven’t asked for money for four years. But we need your help now.
Please donate whatever you can today. Go to gofundme.com/helpsix4three and donate $5 or $500 — whatever you can spare. All funds will be used exclusively to fight Facebook in court, in legislative efforts and in public educational campaigns.
The resistance needs to be organized and unified. We are up against one of the richest companies on the planet overseeing the greatest surveillance apparatus in human history, one that has effectively strangled the free press, the small business community, your privacy, and the very stability of democratic government. If that’s not obvious to you yet, wake up! There is no such thing as sitting on the sidelines. If you aren’t in, you are doing exactly what they hope you will do — nothing! Get involved now. Your future depends on it.
Thanks for your support!