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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended his company's ad-based revenue model in an interview published on Monday, seemingly also challenging the spin adopted by Apple CEO Tim Cook.
"You know, I find that argument, that if you're not paying that somehow we can't care about you, to be extremely glib," Zuckerberg said in speaking to Vox. "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."
The CEO noted that he makes decisions "based on what's going to matter to our community," focusing less on the ad side of the business.
Facebook has frequently been criticized as making users its product, collecting their data for targeted advertising. The interview comes in the wake of a scandal in which Cambridge Analytica gathered data on over 50 million Facebook users without their permission — in turn using it to influence U.S. voters, specifically in favor of President Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign. Since the data was originally scraped in 2014, Facebook has tightened its privacy policies.
"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," Zuckerberg continued. "I thought [Amazon CEO] 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."
Apple's Cook recently attacked Facebook directly in relation to Cambridge Analytica.
"The truth is, we could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer — if our customer was our product," he said. "We've elected not to do that." Cook declined to answer how he would respond if he were in Zuckerberg's shoes, saying simply that he "wouldn't be in this situation."
Cook has regularly touted Apple's privacy safeguards. The company has sometimes even maintained these policies to its detriment, for example making Apple News less attractive to advertisers, and reducing the effectiveness of its voice assistant, Siri.
In recent times it has taken flak for making some of its core products increasingly expensive. The latest iPhones now start at $699, and the top-of-the-line iPhone X is $999 or more. People wanting to buy a state-of-the-art iPad must pay at least $649 — much more than the $499 it cost to get a first-generation model in 2010, though inflation lessens the gap somewhat.