Explained: Why Are Facebook and Apple Fighting?

Tech giants Facebook and Apple are fighting a massive battle at the moment, but you might not know the reason for this battle of behemoths. 

A few months ago, Apple confirmed that with the roll-out of the latest version of its operating system (IOS 14.5), it would also give iPhone owners a new level of control over their privacy. More specifically, Apple has given its users the opportunity to control which applications can gain access to data collected in the background while using your phone across a number of different applications. 

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Among a total of 50 security updates, iOS 14.5’s new App Tracking Transparency feature will automatically ask the owner of that iPhone to allow and bar certain apps from collecting data stored in the background while using an iPhone. Up until this point, Facebook has been able to gain incredibly accurate and relevant information stored on iPhones, which it uses as data points to serve up relevant ads and messages to certain audiences. 

Why is Facebook Fighting Apple?

Apple is concerned about the impact of the new App Tracking Transparency feature, claiming its ability to serve relevant ads to Facebook users will harm not only its audience, but is said to have a disproportionate impact over small and medium businesses, or SMEs. Facebook says that the ability for small businesses to serve ads to an interested audience will be massively hindered with the roll-out of Apple’s new feature, and will harm the profitability of small businesses advertising on the Facebook platform. 

Facebook is most notably angered by the fact that its ability to use data collected from an iPhone – unless the user has already opted out of certain services – is coming to a halt. This is the result of Apple now requiring the owner of the device to explicitly consent to sharing that device’s iPhone Advertising Identifier, or IDFA, which tracks browsing activity across applications and is used to create targeted advertising that is more lucrative for the platform. 

In a statement posted on its website, Facebook says that “Apple’s new iOS 14 policy will have a harmful impact on many small businesses that are struggling to stay afloat and on the free internet that we all rely on more than ever.” Facebook says that Apple’s new feature is “about profit, not privacy,” and states that the move will “force businesses to turn to subscriptions and other in-app payments for revenue, meaning Apple will profit and many free services will have to start charging or exit the market.” 

Why Are Facebook and Apple Fighting

What is Apple’s Stance on Privacy? 

Steve Jobs once said that “privacy means people know what they’re signing up for, in plain language, and repeatedly.” The rollout of iOS 14.5’s new App Transparency Tracker goes one step further in cementing Jobs’ legacy on privacy and information security concerns.  

Apple, as a manufacturer of physical items like iPhones, iPads, Macbooks and iMacs, does not have a business plan that relies on advertising – which is the polar opposite of Facebook’s business plan. As a result, Apple has positioned itself as a manufacturer of devices that maintains user privacy as a key concern. 

Apple has confirmed that the App Tracking Transparency feature will focus on three major concerns: 

  • App developers cannot require you to permit tracking in order to use the app’s full capabilities.
  • If you select “Ask App not to Track,” the developer will not be able to access the system advertising identifier (IDFA), which is often used to track.
  • If we learn that a developer is tracking users who ask not to be tracked, we will require that they update their practices to respect your choice, or their app may be rejected from the App Store.

 Apple’s vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, has said previously that Apple is committed to creating “technology that keeps people’s information safe and protected.” He added that “privacy means peace of mind, it means security, it means you are in the driver’s seat when it comes to your own data.” 

“Our goal is to create technology that keeps people’s information safe and protected. We believe privacy is a fundamental human right, and our teams work every day to embed it in everything we make.” 

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