Facebook said yesterday it will abide by a new privacy feature that fellow tech giant Apple is preparing to roll out, even as it continues to cry foul over perceived double standards.
Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature, expected to be rolled out by the middle of this year, requires app developers to get users’ consent before tracking their data across apps or websites owned by other companies.
The feature will come with an update on Apple’s latest operating system iOS 14.
Its introduction will mean that Facebook will be prevented from collecting and tracking data such as e-mail and IP addresses that it currently uses for personalised advertising by default, unless users choose to opt in.
Facebook’s counter-move, which the firm said it will start testing this week, is a prompt of its own that will appear before Apple’s notification on users’ screens.
This prompt, Facebook said, will provide more information about the benefits of personalised advertisements and how these are used, and does not result in new types of data being collected or new uses of the data.
“We disagree with Apple’s approach, but will be showing their prompt to ensure stability for the businesses and people who use our services,” said a Facebook spokesman yesterday.
“Apple’s new prompt is designed to present a false trade-off between personalised ads and privacy, when in fact, we can provide both.”
The Facebook spokesman added that Apple’s prompt does not provide any context about the benefits of personalised advertising.
These benefits have been a point of contention in the two companies’ ongoing feud, with Facebook maintaining that personalised advertisements support small businesses and help keep apps free.
Facebook has also accused Apple of anti-competitive conduct because Apple has a growing catalogue of paid apps and its own digital advertising business, which have been “carved out from their own rules”.
Last Wednesday, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said in an earnings call that Apple has “every incentive to use its dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps work to favour their own, which they regularly do”.
Apple declined to comment when contacted yesterday by The Straits Times.
But the company’s CEO Tim Cook has previously said on Twitter that “Facebook can continue to track users across apps and websites as before… (ATT) in iOS 14 will just require that they ask for your permission first”.
For example, a small neighbourhood cafe might periodically offer discount coupons to regular customers that it has identified via its app through, say, purchase history.
By advertising with Facebook, the cafe owner could also retarget its own customers on Facebook and display personalised advertising to them.
This scenario could no longer be possible under Apple’s new privacy requirements without the user saying “yes” multiple times to his or her data being collected – including to the cafe’s app and to Facebook via the Apple-mandated prompt.
Mr Cook also appeared to have taken direct aim at Facebook in a speech on International Data Privacy Day last Thursday.
Without naming Facebook, he said advertising has thrived for decades without “vast troves of personal data stitched together across dozens of websites and apps”.
He added: “If a business is built on misleading users, on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, then it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform.”