The iPhone maker is planning to launch a feature that will force advertisers to get permission to track users across the web.
“Facebook executives have made clear their intent is to collect as much data as possible across both first and third party products to develop and monetise detailed profiles of their users, and this disregard for user privacy continues to expand to include more of their products,” Jane Hovarth, Apple’s director of global privacy, had stated in her letter to a coalition of privacy groups.
The claim drew a strong rebuke from Facebook, which accused Apple of “using their dominant market position to self-preference their own data collection, while making it nearly impossible for their competitors to use the same data”.
Apply current maintain policies that force companies like Facebook, who relies on ads, to share their profits. Its most recent plan include the launch of a new iOS feature called App Tracking Transparency, which when enabled, will require any app running on iPhones or iPads to ask users’ permission before accessing particular data that can be used to track them across other apps. It is also called “identifier for advertisers” and the advertising industry fears users will refuse permission, harming its ability to personalise adverts.
App Tracking Transparency was originally planned to be launch early this year, before the pandemic delayed it. According to Apple, changes will finally apply in 2021, dealing quite the heavy blow to the online ads industry.
This new tool is among Apple’s efforts to provide iPhone users with better control over their data. However, Leigh Freund, leader of the non-profit organization Network Advertising Initiative, believes that this move may lead to a tremendous drop in the number of free applications on App Store.
She considers Apple’s actions as “pushed by profit-prompted causes”, for the firm will benefit if developers turn to paid apps – where Apple win 30% of their revenues. The new policy, when applied, will also cause “economic difficulties” for those who rely on ads.
The firm said that hyper-targeted online advertising has only emerged in the last decade. Ms Horvath added that Apple wants to champion privacy-focused advertising which does not micro-target online ads at a specific user. Ms Horvath said: “Facebook and others have a very different approach to targeting. Not only do they allow the grouping of users into smaller segments, they use detailed data about online browsing activity to target ads.”
Facebook and other advertisers believe this will cut revenues, as consumers will be prompted not to share data that would allow them to be shown targeted ads from their web activity. In August, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg said Apple had a “unique stranglehold as a gatekeeper on what gets on phones” and had been able to charge “monopoly rents”, at the same warned that developers may lose up to 50% revenue from ads on iOS 14.
In a response to Apple’s letter, a Facebook spokesperson claimed Apple was attempting to distract attention from recent privacy concerns related to its Mac software and that its privacy moves were design to push more developers to sell apps instead of funding them from advertising. Apple takes a commission on purchases of apps on its App Store, but not those funded by advertising.
“Apple is being accused of monitoring and tracking people’s private data from their personal computers without their customers’ knowledge through its latest update to macOS – and today’s letter is a distraction from that,” Facebook said.
“The truth is Apple has expanded its business into advertising and through its upcoming iOS 14 changes is trying to move the free internet into paid apps and services where they profit. As a result, they are using their dominant market position to self-preference their own data collection while making it nearly impossible for their competitors to use the same data. They claim it’s about privacy, but it’s about profit.”