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Facebook slams Apple for allowing users to opt out of tracking

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Facebook has launched a broadside attack against Apple for a new feature which will allow users to opt-in to whether the apps they use can access their data for advertising purposes.

Apple is expected to introduce the AppTrackingTransparency feature in iOS 14, giving users what Facebook describes as “a discouraging prompt” if any apps such as Facebook’s attempt to track them or access their device’s advertising identifier.

Facebook claims that the feature will harm app developers, small businesses, and is an anti-competitive act designed to benefit Apple’s own advertising features.

It comes as Facebook also announces that it would be joining Fortnite maker Epic Games’ legal fight against Apple, stating it would be providing relevant information regarding how Apple’s policies have adversely impacted the company.

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Facebook has heavily criticised Apple

“Free apps and the entrepreneurs and creators who build them… rely on advertising to make money, and in turn, provide free content to people – from your morning news to the game you play in line at the coffee shop to that comedy show you watched on Friday night,” explained Facebook.

Facebook’s vice president for ads and business products, Dan Levy, claims that Apple’s own personalised advertising platform wasn’t subject to the new iOS 14 policy, something which Apple denies – claiming it simply complies with its own policy.

During a press call to go with the announcement – during which Facebook took very few questions – Mr Levy and a colleague claimed Apple’s new policy was about “control of the entire internet”.

They claimed Apple was “trying to take the [advertising] world back 10 or 20 years”, although they were not asked questions about this claim nor did they offer any statements which justified it.

Facebook’s statement says: “We believe Apple is behaving anti-competitively by using their control of the App Store to benefit their bottom line at the expense of app developers and small businesses. We continue to explore ways to address this concern.”

Apple’s new feature was announced at WWDC earlier this year. It does not block tracking, but requires that users give their permission for developers to track their users – which Facebook describes as a “discouraging prompt”

As examples of tracking, Apple gives:

1. Displaying targeted advertisements in your app based on user data collected from apps and websites owned by other companies.
2. Sharing device location data or email lists with a data broker.
3. Sharing a list of emails, advertising IDs, or other IDs with a third-party advertising network.
4. Placing third-party software development kits (SDKs) in apps that combine data with others to target advertising.

Facebook said: “While it’s difficult to quantify the impact to content creators and publishers at this point with so many unknowns, in testing we’ve seen publishers experience more than a 50% drop in revenue when personalisation was removed from mobile app ad install campaigns.”

The social network said this impacts “not just app developers, but also small businesses that rely on personalised ads to grow” as they cannot target their small advertising budgets towards people likely to buy their products.

“It doesn’t do a local wedding planner any good to reach people who aren’t planning a wedding. Likewise, it doesn’t do a small e-commerce outfit selling customised dog leashes any good to reach cat owners.”

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