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Facebook's fight against iOS 14 privacy rules is laughable, distracting, says digital rights group

Facebook is decrying Apple's upcoming privacy rules as a part of iOS 14 but experts are not convinced with its reasons.

twitter-logoShubham Verma | December 22, 2020 | Updated 14:26 IST
Source: Reuters

Highlights

  • EFF says that Facebook is not telling the whole story when it says it it protecting small businesses from Apple's iOS 14 norms.
  • Apple will mandate app developers to ask user permission for tracking and data gathering.
  • This move is likely to hurt targeting advertising business of Facebook, and other companies.

Facebook is putting out all the stops to make sure Apple is compelled to abandon the new iOS 14 privacy rules. It has been continually running full-page ads that criticise Apple in US newspapers. Facebook has also published a post that outlines how Apple's new policy is detrimental to small business. Instagram's head backed these statements. And the Mark Zuckerberg-led company has also gone as far as to warn its users through app notifications. The desperation is real but what Facebook is saying is debatable at the same. Now, a digital rights group has said that Facebook's campaign against Apple is laughable and a ploy to distract users.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, better known as EFF, has said that Facebook's criticisms against Apple are laughable while siding with the iPhone maker over the upcoming privacy policies that make it compulsory for app developers to list how they are going to collect and use the data. "Facebook has recently launched a campaign touting itself as the protector of small businesses. This is a laughable attempt from Facebook to distract you from its poor track record of anticompetitive behaviour and privacy issues as it tries to derail pro-privacy changes from Apple that are bad for Facebook's business," said EFF in a blog post that blasts the social media company with a dubious track record in terms of user privacy.

What is Apple changing with iOS 14 next year?

The new App Store guidelines that will become effective early next year mandate all app developers to seek the user permission before they begin tracking their behaviour across apps and share the information with third parties. These guidelines also involve approval for data gathering for the purpose of identifying the user across various internet properties. Apple is not blocking any app developer, it is just making it necessary to get the user's permission. These changes were meant to be rolled out in September this year but Apple postponed the enforcement to 2021. But why is Facebook suddenly ballistic about these rules, you might ask?

Normally when you download and install an app, you keep giving it some permissions, which essentially act as an umbrella for several small ones that you do not see on the surface. Since the app has your permission, it collects your data, tracks your online activities, and holds the right to do whatever it wants to with the collected data. One of these activities is sharing information with third parties, which are usually advertisers that are hungry for information on billions of users to customise advertisements and show them what they want across several online services. It is called targeted advertising. Advertisers make deals with various platforms involving money for this data exchange.

Why is Facebook feeling the heat?

Facebook is one of these platforms that has forged deals with several advertisers. Honestly, this is how online services make money. You do not pay to use Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, do you? Advertisements and some other services are important revenue streams for several online companies. So when iPhone users will see Facebook is asking to track them or use their data, they will most likely deny the permission, making it hard for the social media company to collect information on iPhones after the new privacy rules. This is the reason why Facebook is decrying Apple's move in whatever capacity it can if it involves disabusing its users.

As a part of its efforts, Facebook is making people believe that Apple's iOS 14 privacy changes will hurt small business. To some extent, this is true because Facebook will no longer be able to leverage your data for money from these businesses that come to advertise their products. But this is only half-truth. According to EFF, Facebook is not telling "the whole story." "This is really about who benefits from the normalization of surveillance-powered advertising (hint: it's not users or small businesses), and what Facebook stands to lose if its users learn more about exactly what it and other data brokers are up to behind the scenes," it noted.

EFF is also citing several studies to say that most of the money pulled from targeted advertising does not even reach the creators of the content, who, in this case, are app developers and the content they host. Instead, this money goes into the pockets of data brokers, Facebook being one of them. Another one is Google that rules the internet.

The takeaway is that the people who are actually involved in setting up the advertisements for their products do not get the maximum money. The go-betweens make the most of the revenue generated from targeted advertising. Facebook is apprehensive it will lose its business, hence, the huge outcry. "Facebook touts itself in this case as protecting small businesses, and that couldn't be further from the truth."

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Tags: Facebook | Apple
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