Facebook And Apple Clash

A new feature is being introduced to iPhones and iPads which will allow device users to refuse having their data collected by apps and this is causing a serious problem between Apple and Facebook. The two companies are in bitter disagreement  that centers on the iPhone data of millions of people and whether companies should be able to track that data as easily as they do now.  

Facebook has been pushed off balance because user data, and the tidal wave of advertising revenue that it generates, has the potential to deal a severe blow to its core business model.

While Apple CEO Tim Cook has said the move is about giving users control over intrusive data collection, Facebook says that Apple is acting out of self-interest. The iPhone maker is expected to roll out an update to its operating system that prompts you to give apps permission to track their activity across other apps and the web. That change, which Apple calls App Tracking Transparency, may seem small. Lots of apps already track our web activity through default settings we accept when we install them.

The row focuses on a unique device identifier on every iPhone and iPad, called the IDFA (Identifier For Advertisers). Companies which sell mobile ads, including Facebook, use this IDFA to both target ads and estimate their effectiveness. The IDFA can also be paired with other tech, such as Facebook's tracking pixels or tracking cookies, which follow users around the web, to learn even more about you.

Apple has little interest in its customers' data because it makes money from selling devices and in-app purchases, rather than from advertising. Plus it has always marketed itself as a privacy-first company.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs acknowledged that some people didn't care about how much data they shared, but said they should always be informed of how it was being used. "Privacy means people know what they're signing up for, in plain English and repeatedly... ask them, ask them every time," he once said. More recently the current chief executive Tim Cook said: "If a business is built on misleading users, on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform."

Facebook has warned that the app update could cut the money earned through its ad network by half and t argues that sharing data with advertisers is key to giving users "better experiences". It also says that Apple is being hypocritical, because it will force businesses to turn to subscriptions and other in-app payments for revenue, from which Apple takes a cut.

The response from some other leading social media and technology businesses is mixed: 

  • Snapchat expressed support for Apple's changes, but CFO Derek Andersen said during its earnings call that the change represents "a risk of interruption" to demand for advertising. 
  • Twitter has said that the changes could have a modest impact on its performance but didn't elaborate.
  • Mozilla, Firefox and others are not supporting Apple, while the privacy advocacy group, the  Electronic Frontier Foundation said it was a "terrible idea", suggesting Google should ensure that browsers "work for users, not for advertisers".

NPR:     Facebook      CNet:        BBC:       Image: Unsplash

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