Facebook to counter Apple's privacy update with its own prompt encouraging personalised ads

Facebook to counter Apple's privacy update with its own prompt encouraging personalised ads.
A preview of the two prompts likely to be sent to iPhone users. Photo credit: Facebook / Apple

Facebook has announced it will be sending a message to iPhone users about Apple's new tracking transparency rules, encouraging them to continue to allow tracking.

The iOS 14 App Tracking Transparency update has pushed the two tech giants into a fierce battle that's featured full-page newspaper attack ads and bold accusations by the CEOs of both companies directed at the other.

The update means if an app developer intends to track an iPhone user's online activities, they have to be notified in a prompt and given the option to opt out - but Facebook says the prompt discourages people from opting in by leaving out "important context".

"Apple's new prompt is designed to present a false trade-off between personalised ads and privacy when in fact, we can provide both. Apple is doing this to self-preference their own services and targeted advertising products," a Facebook spokesperson told Newshub.

"To help people make a real choice, we're also showing a screen of our own to provide more information about how we use personalised ads, which support small businesses and keep apps free. 

"Agreeing to these prompts doesn't result in Facebook collecting new types of data; it just means that Facebook can continue to give people better experiences." 

The pre-prompt on Facebook and Instagram will tell users that allowing tracking will mean they see ads that are personalised for them and also support small businesses.

Apple says the privacy changes are a simple matter of it "standing up" for its customers, but Facebook is doubling down on its message that the new rules aren't intended to benefit consumers - but rather to boost Apple's profits.

Facebook also alleges Apple has "carved out their own apps from their own rules", but Apple insists the new rules apply to all of its own apps as well.

Speaking to Newshub recently, an Apple representative said it was absolutely incorrect that the company's privacy features are being implemented as an anticompetitive measure. They referred to what they called Apple's long history of prioritising privacy, saying it's always been done for the customer.

The public stoush between the two companies is showing no signs of simmering down.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Apple CEO Tim Cook.
Mark Zuckerberg; Tim Cook. Photo credit: Getty

Just days ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg lashed out at Apple for what he called anti-competitive behaviour.

Both Facebook and Apple are already facing antitrust lawsuits with other companies - they reportedly may also soon be in a legal battle with each other over the new privacy rules.

"Apple has every incentive to use their dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps and other apps work, which they regularly do to preference their own. This impacts the growth of millions of businesses around the world, including with the upcoming iOS 14 changes, many small businesses will no longer be able to reach their customers with targeted ads," Zuckerberg said during an earnings call

"Apple may say that they're doing this to help people, but the moves clearly track their competitive interests. I think this dynamic is important for people to understand because we and others are going to be up against this for the foreseeable future."

Zuckerberg suggested Apple was pushing a move "back to the old days of untargeted television ads" which will mean only enormous companies have personalised ad options and that "small businesses are severely disadvantaged and competition is diminished".

Following Zuckerberg's comments, Apple CEO Tim Cook fired back during a speech at a privacy conference in Brussels. In it he accused social media companies of profiting off misinformation and polarisation that leads to real-world violence.

"The fact is that an interconnected ecosystem of companies and data brokers, of purveyors of fake news and peddlers of division, of trackers and hucksters just looking to make a quick buck, is more present in our lives than it has ever been," Cook said.

"At a moment of rampant disinformation and conspiracy theories juiced by algorithms, we can no longer turn a blind eye to a theory of technology that says all engagement is good engagement - the longer the better - and all with the goal of collecting as much data as possible. 

"It is long past time to stop pretending that this approach doesn’t come with a cost - of polarisation, of lost trust and, yes, of violence."

Apple will be releasing its new version of iOS 14, iPadOS 14 and tvOS 14 with App Tracking Transparency enforcement some time before the end of May.