A study conducted by Facebook has indicated that Apple’s upcoming iOS 14 could lead to a more than 50 percent drop in its Audience Network advertising business. Picture: IANS
A study conducted by Facebook has indicated that Apple’s upcoming iOS 14 could lead to a more than 50 percent drop in its Audience Network advertising business. Picture: IANS

Facebook vs. Apple: inside the battle for your information

By Wesley Diphoko Time of article published Feb 14, 2021

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NO single company, organisation, government, or regulator has managed to stop Facebook and other social media and internet giants from selling user information for profit.

This practice, which is considered a violation of user privacy, has been a major headache for privacy advocates who argue that users should have the ability to choose how their information is used by internet giants.

Apple is about to change this with a simple software update, iOS 14.

The upcoming changes with Apple software will add a few requirements that will enable users to have more control over their information.

The new requirements, called App Tracking Transparency, mandates that apps ask for permission to track user behaviour. iPhone users can accept or deny this permission on an appby-app basis, or rescind it entirely in their settings. It also requires apps in the App Store to disclose what sort of data the apps “link” to you and collect about you; Apple calls these disclosures “nutrition labels”.

Apple CEO, Tim Cook, has been speaking about how important it is that tech companies respect user privacy.

Speaking during International Data Privacy Day, he had this to say about companies that violated user privacy:

“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.”

It is believed that one of the companies that Tim Cook was referring to was Facebook. The world’s second-largest digital advertising platform, Facebook, is one of the few tech giants that will be affected by the upcoming privacy changes.

A study conducted by Facebook has indicated that Apple’s upcoming iOS 14 could lead to a more than 50 percent drop in its Audience Network advertising business.

In response, Facebook has unleashed its PR machinery on Apple.

In print ads Facebook has claimed that Apple’s iOS 14 privacy changes “will change the internet as we know it,” and force websites and blogs “to start charging you subscription fees” or add in-app purchases due to a lack of personalised ads.

The extent to which Facebook has gone to communicate about this matter shows the impact that this will have on its bottom line.

Facebook has gone to the extent of highlighting how these changes will impact small businesses. It has claimed that, according to their studies, without personalised ads powered by their own data, small businesses could see a cut of over 60 percent of website sales from ads. There’s no denying that what Apple will do is a game-changer. If all these changes are implemented this will fundamentally change the world of online advertising. It’s a change that will not only impact Facebook, but also other internet giants, such as Google and Twitter.

The battle between Apple and Facebook offers industry and society an opportunity for reflection.

Here we have two global technology companies with different business models.

One (Apple) makes money by selling hardware and services for which people pay (a lot) to use. The other makes money by selling user data to third-party companies and offer its services for “free” (without paying hard cash), paying with data.

The question we should be asking is: do we want to pay hard money for technology services that we enjoy or do we want to sacrifice our data in return for using technological services?

Apple is giving us a chance to choose. Facebook, prefers a world where people have no choice. It creates an appearance of giving people choices where they have none.

Apple iOS updates are a welcomed change for privacy however a single company cannot solve the privacy challenge on the internet.

Google, Huawei, Samsung, and other leading technology giants will have to follow suit. Apple is showing that hardware manufacturers, upon which many social media companies rely to offer their services, can enable privacy for users by changes to the software.

The change will be painful for small businesses however it’s a necessary change if we are to have an internet that respects the dignity of users.

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