Facebook has launched a public attack on Apple, dragging a long line between the two technology platforms.
Earlier this year, Apple announced that it plans to ask users if they want their data to be shared in targeted advertising, tailored to you.
The move is likely to hurt Facebook, which has warned it could halve the revenue from its ad program by half.
Stance Of Both The Companies
Apple has told the BBC it has “taken a stand” for its users.
But Facebook presents itself as a “small business spokesperson”.
A blog post from Dan Levy, vice president of advertising, suggested that Facebook needs to make it possible to track users’ activities on other apps and websites, to help its advertisers identify their posts to those most responsive people.
As a result, he said, preventing this from happening “truly impacts” not Facebook, but local businesses – like a coffee shop, small retail, or a start-up event planner – because they would not be able to afford campaigns that would need to be seen by more people to generate the same amount of sales.
“Yes, it will have an impact on the diversified advertising business on Facebook, but it will be much smaller than what will happen to small businesses,” wrote Mr Levy.
The tech giant released page-full ads in some printed newspapers as part of its PR blitz. It also hosted a press conference where it introduced small business owners who made their case.
Facebook claims that Apple’s move is about forcing people to use Apple’s advertising platform, which they say has been removed from the new rules – something Apple denies.
It also says digital content like apps will need to move to payments and subscriptions instead of advertising – Apple is taking 30% cuts on iPhones.
Apple denies such allegations, and believes that Facebook is trying to divert attention from an examination of its business practices.
“We believe this is the easiest thing to do for our users,” Apple told the BBC.
“Users should know where their data is collected and shared on other apps and websites – and they should have the option to allow that or not. App Tracking Transparency on iOS 14 does not require Facebook to change its user tracking and targeted creation. Advertising, it requires giving users the opportunity to make their own choices. “
In a recent statement, Apple’s software manager Craig Federighi said: “Some companies will do everything possible to stop the App Tracking Transparency program … or something similar, and keep their access to personal information private.
“To say that we’re sceptical of those claims would be an understatement.”
But one expert has warned both businesses at risk of making the road public.
“It is possible that both companies are playing fire here,” remarked Stephanie Hare, author of the upcoming book Technology Ethics.
“Facebook has already been sued by the Federal Trade Commission, 46 states and two authorities for undermining trust, so you are trying to play the victim here.
“But if it makes the case that Apple is also abusing its position, we could see another Big Tech company in the regulators’ cart.”
Privacy v Publishers
Apple, for years, has promoted privacy as one of the most important features of its phones and other products, making minor adjustments and introducing new features that it says improve user privacy.
The latest of these are notifications in its App Store that lists what data is collected by each product, which Facebook has led to the longest list.
But its decision to ban one type of tracking has the potential to support part of the advertising market when it arrives early next year.
In a survey earlier this year, Facebook said it found that publishers’ revenue had dropped by 50% when customization was not an option in advertising campaigns.
And as part of its anti-Apple campaign, Facebook has registered a series of small business owners as courses, claiming the ability to customize ads has been critical to the success of their business.
Newspaper headlines and news bulletins from small business owners who said they would not have gone through the epidemic without using Facebook-targeted ads – the social media giant clearly means business in its fight with Apple.
“This is about online regulation,” a Facebook official told a news conference, referring to Apple’s goal of putting advanced privacy controls in their latest operating system. But many will see this as a social media violence against maintaining an online business model that reaps its line of action by destroying users.
“Keep our ads personalized” may be the cry of a small business war but it won’t be a big deal for millions of Facebook users who are worried about how their data is being used – or their separate business newspapers have run out since Mark Zuckerberg came up with a brilliant idea to connect people.
Whether Apple’s intentions are pure in its fight to make our online activities more private is questionable – its App Store makes more money by in-app billing than ads. But in a public opinion court, the war between a communications company with a serious problem of trust and a business that promises to restore people to the management of their information may end somehow.