Asked about Cook’s comments during an on-stage interview at Recode’s Code Conference, Sandberg suggests the statements were made because Cook and Apple believe they are important to say, adding “They have a product they feel strongly about.”
“It won’t shock you to know that Mark (Zuckerberg) and I strongly disagree with their characterization of our product,” Sandberg insisted. “We’re proud of the business model we’ve built. We have an ad-supported business that allows people all around the world to the product for free, and if you’re trying to connect the whole world, that’s pretty important. So we respectfully disagree.”
Sandberg was interviewed with Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer, who wanted more time to be spent discussing the substance of the issues. “There’s times when you can get nice quippy soundbites and kick someone when it’s popular and they’re down.” the CTO admits. “That’s us right now, I get it, and we in many ways deserve it.”
Schroepfer moved to highlight the problem with trade-offs between business models in building a service, one that is intended to be used by the whole world, in justifying the ad-based approach. “Can every consumer afford a $10 a month subscription, or a $700 device? For billions of people around the world, no. Not yet.”
In March’s China Development Forum, shortly after the Cambridge Analytica revelations that Facebook user data was being acquired and misused in political analysis, Tim Cook suggested the situation had become dire and large enough to warrant some “well-crafted regulation.”
“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.
The suggestion of regulatory intervention resurfaced a few days later in a televised interview, with Cook musing that, while he thinks “the best regulation is no regulation, is self-regulation,” it is possibly beyond that point now. Cook also said it would have been better for the tech industry as a whole if Facebook controlled the use of data “patched together from several sources.”
Cook also highlighted Apple’s avoidance of ad-based models, such as the one employed by Facebook. “The truth is, we could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer – if the customer was our product. We’ve elected not to do that.”
Sandberg’s defense of Facebook echoes comments made by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in April, but in a softer form.
In the interview, Zuckerberg attacked Cook’s sentiment by declaring “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.” Zuckerberg went on to defend the ad-based model to help connect the world’s citizens, and that it was the “only rational model” to reach those who couldn’t afford to pay.