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Facebook slams Apple for bringing transparency to ad tracking, says old way is good for business

Ankita Chakravarti     December 17, 2020

One of the biggest industries of our times, which is online advertising, is built on obfuscation. Web users rarely know when they are tracked by companies like Google and Facebook, not just within their own apps, but across different apps and websites. Essentially, even if you don't have a Facebook account or are not logged into Facebook, the social media company tracks you. Now, Apple is hoping to bring some transparency to the whole process, at least for iPhone, iPad, and Mac users. And Facebook is not happy.

Facebook has criticized Apple for its upcoming Privacy changes that would force it to clearly tell users when it is tracking them. The social media giant published a full-page newspaper ad in the US targeting Apple's future iOS update. Facebook claims that the new iOS update would "limit businesses' ability to run personalized ads and reach their customers effectively."

Apple has responded back by saying that it is not asking companies like Facebook to change its ad targeting practices. It is only asking companies that they should tell users about the tracking and take the consent from them.

Apple has reacted to Facebook's allegations and has said that it is standing up for people who use their devices. "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," Apple told the Verge in a statement.

In its newspaper ad, Facebook has alleged that without personalized ads, "average small business advertiser stands to see a cut of over 60 percent in their sales for every dollar they spend".

In a separate blog, Dan Levy, head of Facebook's small business program, called Apple monopolistic. "Apple is behaving anti-competitively by using their control of the App Store to benefit their bottom line at the expense of creators and small businesses," he wrote.

In fact, Facebook is running a full-blown attack now, although the company has been grumbling since June when Apple announced the iOS 14 and said that apps will have to be more transparent in the way they collect users' data and track users. The iOS 14 also brings a few more privacy-oriented features like the phone showing when an app is using a camera or a microphone, even if the app is in the background.

Apple earlier announced the privacy labels feature, which requires all apps for iPad, iPhone, Watch, Mac show to users details of how they collect users data and how this data is used. Apple said that product pages will reveal the kind of data an app can collect and how that data will be used by that app to track users. Apple has classified the information into three categories including the Data Used To Track You, Data Linked To You, and Data Not Linked To You.

However, the feature that will force apps to take explicit permission from users for ad tracking has been delayed by Apple. It was earlier scheduled to arrive with the iOS 14 but now the company has given more time to the developers to adjust to the changes announced. The feature is expected to go live in early 2021.

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