Facebook Says Apple's Upcoming Anti-Tracking Prompt is 'More About Profit Than Privacy' [Updated]
Facebook today in a blog post claimed that Apple's upcoming anti-tracking privacy-focused change in iOS 14 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 has also launched a "Speak Up For Small Business" page.
"We disagree with Apple's approach and solution, yet we have no choice but to show Apple's prompt," said Facebook. "If we don't, they will block Facebook from the App Store, which would only further harm the people and businesses that rely on our services. We cannot take this risk on behalf of the millions of businesses who use our platform to grow."
A refresher on the situation: Starting early next year, Apple will require apps to get opt-in permission from users to collect their random advertising identifier, which advertisers use to deliver personalized ads and track how effective their campaigns were. This will occur in the form of a prompt that shows up when users open apps on iOS 14.
In a list of grievances, Facebook said Apple's anti-tracking change is "about profit, not privacy," claiming that small businesses will be forced to turn to subscriptions and other in-app payments for revenue, in turn benefitting Apple's bottom line. Facebook also accuses Apple of setting a double standard, claiming that the iPhone maker's own personalized ad platform is not subject to the upcoming iOS 14 policy:
1. They're creating a policy — enforced via iOS 14's AppTrackingTransparency — that's about profit, not privacy. It 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.
2. They're hurting small businesses and publishers who are already struggling in a pandemic. These changes will directly affect their ability to use their advertising budgets efficiently and effectively. Our studies show, without personalized ads powered by their own data, small businesses could see a cut of over 60% of website sales from ads. We don’t anticipate the proposed iOS 14 changes to cause a full loss of personalization but rather a move in that direction over the longer term.
3. They're not playing by their own rules. Apple's own personalized ad platform isn't subject to the new iOS 14 policy.
4. We disagree with Apple's approach, yet we have no choice but to issue their prompt. If we don’t, we'll face retaliation from Apple, which could only further harm the businesses we want to support. We can't take that risk.
Facebook tones down its language a bit further into the blog post, claiming that Apple's anti-tracking change is "more" about profit than privacy.
Facebook accuses Apple of making "far-reaching changes without input from the industry and the businesses most impacted" in an effort to push businesses and developers into a business model that benefits the company's bottom line. "The truth is, these moves are part of Apple's strategy to expand their fees and services business," said Facebook.
"We believe Apple is behaving anti-competitively by using their control of the App Store to benefit their bottom line at the expense of app developers and small businesses," said Facebook. "We continue to explore ways to address this concern."
As one course of action, Facebook is now showing its support for Fortnite maker Epic Games' antitrust lawsuit against Apple. Facebook said that it will be providing the court overseeing the case with information on how Apple's policies have adversely impacted Facebook and the people and businesses who rely on its platform.
In the meantime, Facebook has outlined steps that small businesses and other advertisers can take to prepare for Apple's anti-tracking change.
Update: In response to Facebook, Apple created a graphic explaining that Facebook can tell people people why they should allow tracking, and also provided a statement:
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.