Facebook argues with Apple about measure that can limit data collection

Two of the most powerful tech companies are flying in each other‘s hair right now. Facebook yesterday and today placed page-large ads in major international newspapers in which it attacks Apple on a new privacy measure.

According to the social network, this measure makes it much more difficult for small entrepreneurs to reach the right customers. The phone maker says to protect the privacy of its users.

It’s all about a function that doesn‘t normally get so much attention. Each iOS device (an iPhone or iPad) has a unique code called the Identifier for Advertisers. This makes it possible for apps to track users outside their own app or site. So they can build a better profile of someone and show even more targeted ads.

Request permission for tracking

Starting early next year, any app running on iOS 14 will have to ask a user permission to do so (at this time, a user must actively do so). That’s against the sore leg of Facebook.

This is the message that users are about to get:

In yesterday‘s advertisement, the company states that SMEs may suffer from this adjustment. โ€œThere may be some truth in this,โ€ says Frederik Zuiderveen Borgesius, Professor of ICT and Privacy Law at Radboud University in Nijmegen.

โ€œ Suppose people decide to stop following, Facebook profiles become less detailed. For example, if you visit a lot of vegan restaurants sites as a user but do not search for them within Facebook, then the company will not knowโ€, says Zuiderveen Borgesius. According to one survey among marketers, it is taken into account that half of the users do not give permission.

Fairly shameless

But, notes the professor here, Facebook does take up for SMEs, but is perhaps even more afraid of its own turnover. โ€œTogether with Google, the company takes a majority of all online advertising revenue, partly because they have such more detailed profiles. And they become less detailed as a result.โ€ He calls it โ€œfairly shamelessโ€ of Facebook that it is so kick-ass for SMEs.

This is the advertisement that was published yesterday in The New York Times and in the European edition of the Financial Times:

In today’s advertisement, Facebook adds another step with the headline โ€œApple versus the free Internetโ€. With which, according to Zuiderveen Borgesius, the company basically says that a free internet is equivalent to an internet where you can be followed without explicit permission.

โ€œ I would say that an Internet where you have the choice to be followed or not is freer.โ€

The manager of the American news sites Boston.com and Boston Globe, who according to him are completely dependent on advertising, is also critical of Facebook‘s motives.

Facebook’s campaign is wider than just the two ads. It also held a telephone briefing for journalists yesterday, where DeccEit was also present.

โ€œ We ourselves are able to handle this and have adjusted our revenue expectation accordingly,โ€ said Dan Levy, responsible for advertising in that conversation at Facebook. โ€œThis does not apply to creators and entrepreneurs and now, in the pandemic, they need all the help they can get.โ€

‘Simply stand up for users’

Apple commented on the Facebook campaign and says it โ€œsimply stands up for our usersโ€. The company argues that users should know when their data will be collected and shared between companies. โ€œThe change does not require Facebook to modify the technique, but simply to give users a choice.โ€ In addition, the company claims not to be opposed to tracking users, but believes that they should give explicit consent.

For small advertisers, this change is annoying, says Henriette van Swinderen, director of the Association of Advertisers. โ€œThey will suffer harm from this and I understand that the timing, in the middle of a crisis, is not nice.โ€

According to Van Swinderen, the adjustment has two sides: consumers will see advertisements that are more irrelevant. โ€œThat does not help increase confidence in the Internet,โ€ said the director. At the same time, it also sees it as a positive development because Apple gives consumers more control over where they are being followed.