Facebook is the most vocal critic for the new App Tracking Transparency feature that Apple introduced in iOS 14.3. The feature was overdue, as privacy advocates pressed Apple to implement it as soon as possible to give users a better look at ways apps track their personal information.
Facebook faces a projected a revenue drop of around 40 percent, which is partly the reason why the company has gone on a crusade against Apple as of late. On Wednesday, the social giant started a campaign consisting of full-page newspaper ads in publications like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post, seeking to enlist more public support for the idea that small businesses would be affected by Apple’s limiting of data gathering and targeted ads.
Facebook isn’t entirely wrong when they say that targeted ads are more likely to get the kind of engagement that generates revenue for small businesses, who either can’t or choose not to charge a fee for the services they provide. However, Apple has already fired back at Facebook with at statement that clarifies the former’s stance on the way advertising should be served to its customers.
Specifically, Apple believes it’s doing its users a service by allowing them to choose if they want to be tracked, when, and by whom, depending on personal preference. In other words, Apple wants companies like Facebook to adhere to the same privacy and transparency standards that (allegedly) govern Apple apps and services.
Facebook is most likely hoping for one of two outcomes. Either Apple caves in to public pressure to relax its new App Store policy, or regulators could step in to force Apple’s hand for supposedly using privacy as an excuse to abuse its dominant position. The latter seems more likely, since Facebook seems intent on proving that Apple is just as guilty of silent data collection through something called Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) on iOS.
In the EU, Apple is already under fire for its use of IDFA, but an underfunded Irish Data Protection Commission has yet to move forward with a formal investigation.
Facebook has equally welcomed the EU’s new Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act, which introduce new gatekeeping rules that are supposed to prevent platform owners from abusing their power to harm developers and small businesses.
As for Facebook’s newspaper ads, they fired up a new one today, titled “Apple vs. the free internet,” in which it’s trying to convince readers the Cupertino giant is secretly trying to move all apps and services to a paid model, where it can extract a fee from subscriptions and in-app purchases.
In the ad, Facebook also claims that small businesses can expect to see 60 percent less sales on average, if they keep their advertising budget the same. According to a Facebook-commissioned study conducted by Deloitte, targeted ads on social media have seen the biggest positive net change amid the pandemic, but non-targeted ads have also seen double digit growth, as did search engine ads and display ads shown on websites across multiple categories.
Facebook isn’t fighting Apple using only newspaper ads, either. Earlier, the social giant promised to assist Epic in its ongoing legal battle against Apple over App Store rules. If anything, Epic just found a new friend in its quest to paint Apple as the evil gatekeeper of the App Store, and Facebook just found a way to disguise its self-interest as fighting for the “free internet” and “small businesses.”