Apple Bashes Facebook, Debuts Rival Social Media Features

Apple, which has criticized Facebook for its data privacy policy, introduced social media features for its new mobile device operating system. The features include group video chat for up to 32 people, tools to share photos with friends and the ability to play augmented reality games with friends. Apple also debuted privacy tools for the Safari browser that limits the data that Facebook and its ilk can gather. Apple made its target clear, with images of Facebook and Instagram in its marketing material.

The Wall Street Journal quotes GBH Insights head of technology research Daniel Ives as saying that the combination of privacy and social media features is Apple’s “shots across the bow” at Facebook. “Facebook should have one eye open,” said Ives, who noted that, “Apple is clearly looking to make the device more attractive with software features that wed people to the device.”

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In response to controversy over Facebook’s data privacy, the company “has more tightly restricted the data that outside apps can access.” It suspended 200 apps suspected of misusing data and is reviewing thousands more.

Apple has also pointed out that two-thirds of its revenue involves hardware sales, whereas Facebook sells marketers the ability to launch targeted ads via detailed profiles of users. Apple chief executive Tim Cook even told MSNBC that his company cares “about the user experience, and we’re not going to traffic in your personal life … I think it’s an invasion of privacy.”

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg responded that Cook’s remarks were “extremely glib.”

The digital ad business is growing, and “Apple delivered nearly $1 billion in revenue last year by selling promotional ads for search terms in its App Store,” reported WSJ. Analysts say that Apple’s ad business “collects far less data on users than peers,” and the company is trying to limit what Facebook and other apps collect from Apple devices.

Apple software chief Craig Federighi pointed out that “like” and “share” buttons can be used to track the user, whether she clicks them or not. “This year, we are shutting that down,” he said. Federighi also showed how software will let users limit their time on Instagram and other apps.

Apple’s previous efforts in social media include Ping on iTunes, a music-oriented feature that ran for two years and shut down in 2012 when users didn’t sign up. A tool in Apple’s Photo app will now “automatically suggest which photos and who to share them with … [and] the friends will then be encouraged to share the photos back with iPhone users.” Federighi says the machine learning-enabled process uses end-to-end encryption.