For most of the past week and a half, this image has been stuck in my head:
In tandem, I have also been thinking a lot about this guy:
Yes, the rumors are true: the girls are fighting, and I — a sicko — am absolutely enthralled. A lot has happened in the last couple of weeks but I hope that by packaging it as a meme thing, you might be interested. “Girls” in this case is
“large tech companies” and
“governments” and you can mix and match the configuration depending on the fight.
Facebook versus Apple
This one is extremely funny in how stupid it is. I have a preference for one side versus another in all of these cases, but in this particular case, it’s so funny that Facebook even picked this fight. Because they are so obviously wrong and so dumb that they’ve Streissand-effect’d how dumb and craven they are.
Next year, Apple is going to start requiring informed consent for data collection. Basically, an app has to tell a user what it’s picking up and make the case for why it needs this data. Here’s an example of what it looks, courtesy of Tim Apple:
That’s literally it.
“Hey, can we have this stuff? Y/N?” I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Hmm, any app developer whose data collection practices respect user privacy and are not overly aggressive and invasive should have no trouble with this,” and you are correct in thinking that.
Unfortunately, Facebook exists, and the company’s data-collection practices are wildly invasive. Here’s an example comparing the end-to-end-encrypted Facebook-owned app WhatsApp, with a functional equivalent, Signal.
This is Facebook’s M.O. — pretending it needs data it doesn’t in order to perform the most noble service of all, operating a programmatic ad platform. Facebook’s business model (collecting an absurd amount of data about each of its users and letting advertisers target based on that data) relies on people not knowing how Facebook makes money. I know this because Facebook launched an expensive and remarkably condescending ad campaign this week railing against informed consent.
Facebook took out print ads in a number of publications on the theme of “standing up to Apple for small businesses everywhere.” It’s worried that Apple’s software update will “limit businesses’ ability to run personalized ads and reach their customers effectively.”
I don’t have to tell you this is a crock of shit. This is Facebook using the rhetoric of personal responsibility to try and make individual users accountable for Facebook’s actions. In the same way that corporations want you to believe plastic straw usage is killing the planet and that you are personally accountable, Facebook wants you to believe that if you don’t let Facebook track you across the web in extremely invasive fashion, that you will be personally responsible for killing small businesses. It’s astoundingly disingenuous, even for Facebook. Here’s the bozo who runs Instagram:
That second sentence makes me feel absolute nutso. Apple is not preventing data collection, it is just giving users a choice. Facebook is equating choosing personal privacy with actively killing small businesses. Get lost!!!
Epic Games versus Apple, featuring Facebook
The Wall Street Journal:
As part of a pledge to assist challenges to what it called Apple’s anticompetitive behavior, Facebook plans to provide supporting materials and documents to Epic Games Inc. The “Fortnite” parent sued Apple this year, claiming the tech giant’s App Store operates like a monopoly. Facebook said it isn’t joining the lawsuit but helping with discovery as the case heads to trial next year.
Epic Games sued Apple earlier this year, arguing that the 30-percent cut that Apple takes from transactions that run through the App Store is burdensome and the result of monopolistic practices.
I’m not exactly well-versed in the legal issues and arguments of this case, but from a distance, as an armchair idiot, I side with Epic. 30 percent is a wild amount of money to take for facilitating a financial transaction. Apple seemed to acknowledged this (slightly) when it announced last month that it would only collect 15 percent from developers making less than $1 million a year.
(Facebook is helping this lawsuit to fuel its own argument that Apple shouldn’t be able to limit its data collection but, I dunno. It’s complicated! The enemy of the enemy is my friend… or my enemy? We gotta reboot the economy from scratch, I guess.)
Lawsuits get results simply by being filed! The policeman at the elbow!
Which brings us to…
Cydia versus Apple
The Washington Post:
The lawsuit was filed on Thursday by the maker of Cydia, a once-popular app store for the iPhone that launched in 2007, before Apple created its own version. The lawsuit alleges that Apple used anti-competitive means to nearly destroy Cydia, clearing the way for the App Store, which Cydia’s attorneys say has a monopoly over software distribution on iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system.
“Were it not for Apple’s anticompetitive acquisition and maintenance of an illegal monopoly over iOS app distribution, users today would actually be able to choose how and where to locate and obtain iOS apps, and developers would be able to use the iOS app distributor of their choice,” the lawsuit alleges.
Cydia’s back! Remember Cydia? It’s okay if you don’t. Cydia dared to ask, “what if you could install stuff on an iPhone that wasn’t from the App Store?” and got crushed for it. So they’re in the mix too.
I’m seeing all of these news items and I’m sitting here like:
While in the meantime…
A bunch of states versus Facebook
While everyone started ganging up on Apple, a bunch of states were like, “hmmm, is Facebook bad?” The answer is “Yes!” Last week, most of the states in the United States formed some sort of prosecutorial Voltron and filed suit to break the company up, specifically spinning off WhatsApp (the privacy-focused messaging app that Mark Zuckerberg is currently destroying, mentioned above) and Instagram (run by one of the top 10 dumb guys on earth, also mentioned above).
The general thinking is that Facebook acquired WhatsApp and Instagram not to improve its service, but rather, to take them off the board as competitors. Unfortunately, it worked and that’s why Facebook has been so powerful for the last decade. This is classic monopolistic behavior.
“For nearly a decade, Facebook has used its dominance and monopoly power to crush smaller rivals and snuff out competition, all at the expense of everyday users,” said Attorney General Letitia James of New York, a Democrat who led the multistate investigation into the company in parallel with the [FTC], which is overseen by a Republican.
This lawsuit is exactly what Facebook has been anticipating as it starts trying to smash its properties together and link them inextricably, like Gak. It’s why you can message Facebook friends from Instagram now. It sucks!
This case is going to drag on for a very long time, and its effects are hard to predict. Maybe nothing will happen. But, as alluded to above, the mere act of filing a lawsuit is often enough to get a company to act less agressively and less unlawfully in its pursuit of power. So merely by existing, the lawsuit will probably have some knock-on effect. Anything else is a bonus, as far as I’m concerned.
Texas (and other) versus Google
Facebook is not the only one to watch out for. Google also stinks. The companies form a duopoly in the online ad market, and as a result, Google got sued this week too. Every day this week, I saw a headline that turned me into the guy.
To put is simply, the case Texas filed — just one of multiple filed against Google this year — concerns Google’s role as both a buyer and seller of programmatic advertising. (Running a marketplace that you also participate in? That’s something Apple would also know about!)
As Wired put it, “According to the states’ complaint, Google exploits its control over the advertising pipeline to impose unfair conditions on advertisers and publishers, discriminate against rival ad tech firms, and rake in a bigger cut of online ad spending than it would earn if there were more middlemen competing for the business.”
Boring! Are there any particularly ominous accusations in the legal filing? Yes! Again, Wired:
The Texas lawsuit also includes a surprising allegation: that Google struck an unlawful deal to get Facebook to ease up on competing with its ad business in exchange for preferential treatment in Google-run ad auctions. If that’s true, it would be a straightforward case of conspiring to restrain trade in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act, which outlaws such deals between companies. (Facebook isn’t named as a defendant in the suit, but it could also face legal problems stemming from the deal.)
Here’s a pic of me reading that paragraph:
And here’s me telling you about all these cases:
Antitrust is boring. It is difficult to make this topic matter to the average layperson who has spent this year worrying about dying because they got breathed on too much when they went outside. But here is why you should care: extremely wealthy individuals and companies are facing (nominal) consequences for their actions. Isn’t that nice to think about?