Facebook is standing up to Apple, but only for Facebook

  • Facebook took full-page ads in major newspapers for two days in a row, accusing Apple that it’s hurting the free internet and that Apple’s privacy-enhancing features will make it more difficult for companies to use personalized ads.
  • Apple introduced privacy labels in iOS 14.3, informing users about the personal data that an app can collect and track.
  • Facebook is one of the companies that collect plenty of user data, making money off that data via highly personalized ads. Facebook has been involved in numerous scandals involving user data so far.

For the second day in a row, Facebook took full-page ads against Apple in several top newspapers, including The Wall Street JournalThe New York Times, and The Washington Post. The iPhone maker has just rolled out its new privacy features that show users what sort of personal data other apps collect from phones. Developers will have to add privacy labels to their App Store apps to explain exactly what sort of user tracking powers their apps have to avoid delisting. The privacy features were unveiled back at WWDC 2020, sparking a wave of worry from several companies who make money from user data and user tracking.

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Facebook is at the top of that business, and Facebook is trying to do everything possible to attempt to stop Apple from providing that information to users. Facebook is the company that’s already tracking a lot of what Facebook users are up to online, and it’s tracking even users who are not on the social network. Facebook is the company whose failures to guard user data allowed smart people to take advantage of it during the 2016 Brexit and US presidential elections. Facebook is the company that allowed foreign nations to interfere in those same elections, and Facebook initially lied about its role in the election. Facebook is still driving toxic debates online and still profiting from all of that via highly personalized ads that it sells.

Yet Facebook now says that it’s Apple that’s putting the livelihoods of small business in danger and that it’s Apple putting in danger free internet. Here’s the full text that Facebook published in printed newspapers:

Apple vs. the free internet

Apple plans to roll out a forced software update that will change the internet as we know it—for the worse.

Take your favorite cooking sites or sports blogs. Most are free because they show advertisements.

Apple’s change will limit their ability to run personalized ads. To make ends meet, many will have to start charging you subscription fees or adding more in-app purchases, making the internet much more expensive and reducing high-quality free content.

Beyond hurting apps and websites, many in the small business community say this change will be devastating for them too, at a time when they face enormous challenges. They need to be able to effectively reach the people most interested in their products and services to grow.

Forty-four percent of small to medium businesses started or increased their usage of personalized ads on social media during the pandemic, according to a new Deloitte study. Without personalized ads, Facebook data shows that the average small business advertiser stands to see a cut of over 60% in their sales for every dollar they spend.

Small businesses deserve to be heard. We’re standing up to Apple for our small business customers and our communities.

Facebook’s ad is somewhat misleading, as Apple’s privacy labels do not force users to take any action against targeted ads. Those privacy labels are just providing information. Targeted ads will still be possible, but Facebook is clearly aware that people who are informed about how they’re tracked online might take matters into their own hands and stop the tracking. Targeted ads are still possible, and companies will still run targeted ads. But if more people start opting out of targeted advertisements, Facebook’s bottom line could go down significantly.

Facebook might be pretending that it cares about small companies and the internet. But it’s doing all of this for itself first and foremost.

Facebook told MacRumors in a statement that Apple’s move “isn’t about privacy, it’s about profit.”

“Paying for content may be fine for some, but most people, especially during these challenging times, don’t have room in their budget for these fees,” the spokesperson said.

Apple countered Facebook’s arguments in a statement to MacRumors:

We believe that this is a simple matter of standing up for our users. Users should know when their data is being collected and shared across other apps and websites — and they should have the choice to allow that or not. App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 does not require Facebook to change its approach to tracking users and creating targeted advertising, it simply requires they give users a choice.

Facebook has a blog post up explaining its stance on the matter at this link.

Chris Smith started writing about gadgets as a hobby, and before he knew it he was sharing his views on tech stuff with readers around the world. Whenever he’s not writing about gadgets he miserably fails to stay away from them, although he desperately tries. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.