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Facebook is reportedly preparing an antitrust lawsuit against Apple

The potential litigation could center around ad tracking and default messaging apps on Apple products.
FILE - In this Aug. 11, 2019, file photo an iPhone displays a Facebook page in New Orleans. A Ukrainian security researcher says a database with the names, phone numbers and unique user IDs of more than 267 million Facebook users was exposed on the open internet for at least 10 days this month. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)
Kris Holt
Kris Holt|@krisholt|January 28, 2021 12:05 PM

Facebook has reportedly been preparing an antitrust lawsuit against Apple for months, centering around an allegation that the company is forcing developers to follow App Store rules that its own apps don't have to abide by. According to The Information, if Facebook decides to file suit, its complaint could also target Apple's refusal to allow third-party apps from becoming the default messaging service on its devices instead of iMessage. 

Facebook has claimed that Apple's upcoming ad-tracking changes would give it an "unfair advantage" in displaying ads on the App Store and elsewhere. Although the policy won't apply to Apple's apps, the company notes that it doesn't share user data with third parties anyway. Apple has said that it's bringing in the policy to protect user privacy

The potential litigation would follow an antitrust suit that Epic Games brought against Apple last year. The developer is seeking changes to Apple's business practices, including its cut of app sales and in-app purchases. Facebook and several other companies joined Epic in criticizing Apple’s “unfair” policies. Last month, Facebook said it would provide internal documents to support Epic's case. 

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Like Epic, Facebook could ask for changes to App Store rules rather than monetary damages from Apple. Facebook has reportedly mulled asking other companies to join the lawsuit, but there's no guarantee that it’ll follow through and sue Apple. For its part, Apple has argued that it doesn't have the largest share of the smartphone market and that its App Store rules reduce the risk of malware and scams. 

The two companies have taken potshots at each other in public for years. Recently, WhatsApp accused Apple of having a double standard when it comes to data privacy labels on iOS.

When Facebook reported its quarterly earnings on Wednesday, CFO Dave Wehner suggested that Apple's plan to limit cross-site and cross-app tracking for advertising purposes, which should come into effect early this year, could have an impact on ad revenue. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg railed against Apple once again on an earnings call yesterday. For one thing, he took a swing at iMessage for storing "non-end-to-end encrypted backups of your messages by default unless you disable iCloud." He claimed that WhatsApp was "clearly superior" when it comes to protecting people's messages.

Meanwhile, both companies are facing antitrust scrutiny from regulators. The Federal Trade Commission and most state attorneys general sued Facebook last month. They accused it of anti-competitive practices by scooping up rival companies Instagram and WhatsApp and hope to undo those acquisitions. Apple, meanwhile, is the subject of a European Union antitrust investigation and is reportedly part of another probe by the Department of Justice.

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Facebook is reportedly preparing an antitrust lawsuit against Apple