Facebook Lawsuit Against Apple: Trying To Punch Above Its Weight?

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It has been a despising grappling game between two tech titans. And as the reports break-in, it seems that social media behemoth Facebook has decided to proceed full tilt with an anti-trust lawsuit against world’s most valuable publicly traded tech company.

According to the latest developments, Facebook is planning to take the bitterness quotient up a notch by filing an antitrust lawsuit against Apple over anti-competitive practices, with a primary focus on their in-app purchases.

The news in the wind is that Facebook’s move comes after much deliberation, as it has been extensively working with outside legal counsel to chalk up an antitrust lawsuit against the tech giant.

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The allegation put forth by the Zuckerberg-led company is that Apple “abused its power in the smartphone market by forcing app developers to abide by App Store rules that Apple’s own apps don’t have to follow.”

ATT updates once again front and centre

Besides the issues related to in-app purchases, the lawsuit is likely to also glare up on the App Tracking Transparency feature introduced by Apple in the iOS 14. The ATT update, which has been a hotly contested matter, is just months away from its launch. It is worth noting that the broader consequences of introducing the feature – how it requires users to permit apps to track them – is what led to the recent flashpoint between the two behemoths.

By the looks of it, this appears like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s attempt to lay the foundation of a broader legal case. By rolling in all the rules Apple imposes on its app developers – which forces them to use Apple’s in-app payment service, for starters, the aim of Facebook’s disquiet is how it purportedly becomes harder for other organisations to compete against Apple in the lucrative gaming, messaging and shopping arenas.

The measure took shape at the California-based company’s fourth-quarter earnings conference call, where CEO Mark Zuckerberg called out Apple’s iOS 14 update and underlined how Facebook’s future results could be in a major soup by the privacy changes introduced by Apple in the iOS 14.

Zuckerberg’s apprehensions

Ever since the news of the update came to light, Zuckerberg has strenuously argued that Apple’s changes are more for benefiting its lynchpin iMessage service, not the consumers, and will definitely hurt small businesses in the future.

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Zuckerberg’s claims are that privacy changes being introduced are often misleading. Taking shots at the recently released “nutrition labels” by Apple, the Facebook CEO has expressed his indignation on the fact that how the nutrition label’s focus on collecting metadata, rather than the privacy and security of people’s actual messages has been grossly unchecked.

He has disputed that since iMessage stores non-intending encrypted backups of the iOS users’ messages by default unless they disable iCloud, both Apple and the US government in fact have access to most people’s messages.

Not everyone aboard

That may be the case, but it’s not to say that Zuckerberg has been able to count on all of his employees in the pushback against Apple’s policies. Several reports have suggested that Facebook’s executives are encountering considerable internal resistance for going up against Apple. The skepticism to play the victim card by Facebook’s employees, is understandable, given the company’s tainted history and past mishandling of user data, for which it continues to cop heavy flak. Given the high-profile brawl with Apple, Facebook could be even be forced to pull the case if the dissension within its rank rises.

Apple’s subtle jabs

On the other side, Apple has also not been mum regarding the possibility of the impending lawsuit against it. Coincidentally enough, the decision to file the antitrust case against Apple comes amidst International Privacy Day. CEO Tim Cook was quick to make use of the day’s significance by saying that the deployment of new requirements across the App Store will only empower users about new tools to best control how the apps gather and share their personal data.

While more a message to the opposite number than anything else, it has also cheekily chosen to feature Facebook’s name for the new app install privacy pop-up screen. Clearly not backing down here!

Tap Research’s survey – which found 85% of respondents unwilling to allow an app to track them if given the choice, also works in Apples’ favour.

The long-simmering dispute has seen has many such indulging practices. Last month, it was Facebook that offered to help Epic Games in its battle against Apple by providing some internal documents. The updates have stung the social media giant badly, with COO Sheryl Sandberg repeatedly assuring that Facebook will find ways to voice stories about how small businesses are worried about Apple’s iOS changes.

Quite a few consulting businesses have made their concerns public on the losses which they will be forced to endure once the update goes in.

On the whole, it is an open secret that Facebook’s ad campaigns were more self-serving than a messiah for small businesses. But there are nuggets that make Facebook’s allegations worth investigating into too.

Apple too has every incentive to use their dominant platform position to manipulate how other apps work, seeing as how the iMessage for instance comes up pre-installed on every iPhone. There could indeed be loopholes presently overlooked which impact the growth of millions of MSME’s around the world, if the lawsuit goes through.

It will be interesting to see of this is just another one of Facebook’s larks or if Apple is indeed found to be shading competitive interests in the name of privacy, if and when the case is registered. One thing is for sure, this is far from the end of the skirmish.

Stay tuned for more updates.

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