Last Thursday (January 28), Apple CEO Tim Cook, while attending the International Data Privacy Day, made some veiled attacks targeting social media giant Facebook. Although that was not the first time, Mark Zuckerberg and his team now have the strongest reasons to start worrying about Apple. Before we get to that, here is a snippet of what Cook said at the event.
Cook called out the business model adopted by the major social media platform. Questioning the ethics in collecting users’ data to target them with ads. Cook said:
“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.
Technology does not need to vast troves of personal data, stitched together across dozens of websites and apps, in order to succeed.”
Although he didn’t mention Facebook, it doesn’t take a genius to see that was his target based on his rhetorical question: “What are the consequences of seeing thousands of users join extremist groups, and then perpetuating an algorithm that recommends even more?”
Facebook’s Bad Manners of Tracking Users to be Stopped
In July 2020, Mark Zuckerberg, alongside other ‘big tech’ CEOs from Google, Apple, and Amazon, were grilled by the U.S. House Antitrust Subcommittee members. At the time, it looked like Facebook’s bad habit of harvesting users’ data across the internet would be contained by Congress.
However, it appears Facebook’s fellow ‘big tech’ will be the one to do the job. At the Thursday event, Cook revealed Apple’s upcoming privacy changes that will see apps banned from sharing users’ behavior with third-party apps. Going forward, a user on iOS will have to give explicit consent for apps to share data with other apps.
As it stands out, people will have to opt-in to having their data shared with other third-party apps. This move has been long coming if you take Cook’s remarks back in 2018 when he said: “If our customer was our product, we could make a ton of money. We’ve elected not to do that.”
Back when the U.S. Congress was grilling Zuckerberg, the last person he would have thought would threaten their revenue streams would have been Cook. The same Committee was also probing the same person.
Apple’s new App Tracking Transparency Network
In summer, Apple announced that they will be releasing a new App Tracking Transparency framework. This framework will be policing how apps are monetizing their platform and allowing iOS users to have the option of opting-in for the program or not. As it stands, users are already signed-in on the program, and it is upon them to opt-out.
However, most users never take the initiative to opt-out of such programs. Leaving everything to the discretion of companies like Facebook to ethically harvest their data. On their part, Facebook has on several occasions been found culpable in how they are using users’ data. They have used it to create targeted ads, but their data has also been used for political mind games.
Facebook hits back at Apple for stifling Small Businesses growth
Admittedly, Facebook makes billions of dollars in profit by providing advertisers the ideal potential customer. The company can do that by following the user’s activity around the internet. They are not just actively monitoring the Facebook platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and now WhatsApp). They also follow you around when you are using other apps on your phones.
The new user privacy framework that is about to be implemented by Apple on the iOS platform will make it hard for users’ data to be shared with third-party apps. That means less information for Facebook to build up the ideal look-alike audience for their clients (the marketers).
As expected, Facebook is not going down without a fight. This move by Apple has been a long time coming. In December 2020, Facebook ran full-page ads across newspapers saying it is “standing up to Apple for small businesses.”
The social media giant argues that the data it collects from users goes a long way in helping small businesses run successful digital marketing campaigns. It allows them to target the right customers when running marketing campaigns online. Facebook argues it sorts out the pool of clients and identifies the most potential clients. Thus, they minimize loss of funds for the advertisers since their ads will meet the most relevant potential customers out of the entire bunch of possible customers.
Indeed, most of the revenues Facebook earns come from marketing campaigns run by small businesses. Arguing from that angle, Facebook seems like a prince in shining armor defending small businesses. While Apple argues the social media is nothing but a giant vacuum cleaner sucking every and any information it can about users. And it does so across the internet, not just when users are on the Facebook platform.
Be that as it may, Facebook’s profits are going to suffer once the new app tracking framework becomes effective on iOS. Especially in the U.S. market, where almost half of the population are iOS users. As for the rest of the world, Facebook may still have some time to rake in big bucks, given the fact Android is the most popular mobile OS outside the U.S.