Facebook is clearly rather unhappy with Apple’s upcoming iOS 14 update. As part of this update, Apple is introducing a feature that will block Facebook and many other similar apps from tracking you and your activity across the internet. This privacy centric update will essentially shatter Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s personalised advertisements revenue – a strategy that has been majorly beneficial for the company. After bringing out a full-page ad yesterday in leading American newspaper criticising the move and alleging that it would ‘hurt’ small businesses, Facebook has published a second and rather desperately worded advertisement, claiming that Apple’s upcoming iOS 14 update will “change the internet as we know it – for worse.”
In this ad, Facebook alleges, “Most (websites and content) are free because they show advertisements. Apple’s change will limit their ability to run personalised ads. To make ends meet, many will have to start charging you subscription fees or adding more in-app purchases, making the internet much more expensive and reducing high-quality free content. Many in the small business community say this change will be devastating for them too, at a time when they face enormous challenges.”
Will it really, though?
In an indirect response to Facebook’s two newspaper ads trying to raise word against Apple’s move, CEO Tim Cook posted about this on Twitter earlier today. In his tweet, he says, “We believe users should have the choice over the data that is being collected about them and how it’s used. Facebook can continue to track users across apps and websites as before, App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 will just require that they ask for your permission first.”
Apple’s move, in essence, hands the power back to users to entirely refuse to have their activity tracked across the internet. This will prevent any website from seeing which sites you visit, on what posts you spend more time, or any other internet usage metric for that matter. As a result, Facebook is right in saying that websites will no longer be able to target you with ads for juicers after you spent 10 minutes checking out a hand blender on an e-commerce website. The result? Affiliate marketing campaigns, which award small businesses running websites a chunk out of every sale originating from ads on their pages, will no longer be able to guess which product you are in need of, and as a result, only show you generic ads in a one-size-fits-all style.
Revenue, then, may indeed be affected.
As Cook said earlier today, the iOS 14 update simply hands over the choice back to the user. So far, the scope of blocking out all forms of activity tracking on the internet is limited. However, with the iOS 14 update, Apple will block out cookies such as the Facebook Pixel, and hence not give access to any third party app to your data – that is, unless you explicitly allow so. Apple’s natural stance, hence, is that should you be okay with your data being collected to show you ads of products, you can allow it personally and nothing would change for you.
We believe users should have the choice over the data that is being collected about them and how it’s used. Facebook can continue to track users across apps and websites as before, App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 will just require that they ask for your permission first. pic.twitter.com/UnnAONZ61I
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) December 17, 2020
However, if you are not, you should have the right to refuse it. Privacy experts have often highlighted that a premium revenue model for accessing content on the internet may be a viability in the future, and the upcoming iOS 14 update only gets us closer to it. With or without affiliate or targeted advertisement data, independent websites already employ partial paywalls for their content, and should you wish to keep your privacy intact, the general assumption is that you should also be willing to pay for accessing a piece of content. In this instance, the content is a market commodity just like any retail product – hence justifying that it comes with a price and cannot be simply defended with an individual’s right to privacy.
It is this right to privacy that Apple’s upcoming iOS 14 update will enable. Facebook, on this note, stands to lose quite a bit. Without the ability to serve personalised ads all across the platform, Facebook stands to see a significant downward revenue trajectory in what is its major revenue channel. Its ads, hence, seek to put the onus on business that work in partnership with Facebook, and raise the issue of net neutrality – a topic that Facebook has struggled with in the past as well.