Is Facebook Fighting A Lost Battle With Apple?

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Sometimes, it seems like Facebook’s antics know no end. Like a prey sensing impending danger, writhing to get out of it, Facebook’s latest outburst against Apple bears all such signs. And mortifyingly enough for Facebook, does not paint them in the prettiest of lights.

Taking aim at Apple’s new AppTrackingTransparency feature on iPhones, Facebook has now launched a full-blown campaign against the world’s most valuable tech company. Self-styling it as a messiah of small and medium businesses, the exasperating charge has seen California based social media behemoth even launching full-page newspaper ads claiming the unseen harm which might come as a causality of this new feature. But what has got Facebook so riled up? Is it indeed justified in its actions to initiate ads against a rival’s policy?

The short answer is no. And frankly, as we dissect it, a farce and an eyewash to say the least.

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The bone of contention

The short of it is this; Facebook’s vendetta lies with Apple’s app tracking transparency feature. And the reason? Simply for giving users control over their data and allowing them to make a conscious choice whether or not they want an app tracking their browsing activity. While it may sound a bit confusing even to a layman, this is Facebook we’re talking about folks. Read on.

 For a company that has built a fortune monetising personal data, Apple’s app transparency is indeed a feature that threatens its very model, a source that makes up a significant part of the company’s revenue. Apple’s change – to request permission from users before tracking them across other apps and websites or sharing their information with and from third parties – is something completely opposite to how Facebook has conducted business over the years.

Facebook literally greets its user base with ads. It tracks ALL our online activities – the apps and websites we visit, the shopping we do, and then showers customers with personalised ads. This is Facebook’s business model and always has been, where the customer is a mere product, where the choice lies only with the policymakers.

A Commendable Move

Before delving more into why Facebook’s shenanigans are so further from the truth, let us learn more about where and how Apple has looked to deploy the AppTrackingTransparency feature.

While the idea of the consent interface is not a novel one, the feature in question makes advertiser tracking explicitly opt in for users. Not impacting first-party data collection, the feature allows users to choose which apps can request those permissions, thereby giving users more knowledge of what the apps are doing on the device. Currently, to be given in iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and tvOS 14, the AppTrackingTransparency preferences can be set as per the user’s wishes.

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The rollout of this new feature from Apple is certainly a step in the right direction, reducing developer abuse, and more importantly, giving users control and knowledge over their own personal data.

Why Facebook’s claims lie on thin ice

The social media giant’s aggressive claims of the development having “hard-hitting implications across targeting, optimization, and measuring campaign effectiveness for businesses that advertise on mobile devices and across the web” are indeed laughable, to say the least. Say, did it forget its Whatsapp permission dialog box that quickly?

Get this, according to The Association of National Advertisers estimates – when the “ad tech tax” is taken into account, publishers are only taking home between 30 and 40 cents of every dollar spent on ads” The rest? Well, it obviously funnels out to third-party data brokers, keen on exploiting information, strangling the small businesses’ attempt to eke out a system to reach their customers with efficacy.

This is evidence enough of how Facebook has locked these businesses into a vicious cycle in which they are forced to go through the giant to get to the customers. Bear this in mind, the opposition to privacy feature is by one whose poor track record of anticompetitive behavior and privacy issues is very, very well documented in the years previously.

What it comes down to it is this – By derailing this change, the present broken system which costs users their privacy and control cannot be an answer and no amount of manipulation should change that. The vendetta reeks of an indirect attack against the privacy of users in the long term and should be cut down at first chance.

And therefore, it is all the more hypocritical that a company, which all the while has let applications sell and share your data across a slew of dodgy third-party companies, would suddenly like users and decision-makers to believe otherwise. Facebook’s “championing” of the small guy is nothing but the fact that it wants a rival to change its business model, because profitable as it has been, Facebook cannot afford to.

Chin up FB, ‘cause this is petulant stuff from a behemoth.

Stay tuned to this space for more updates.

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