Facebook goes to war with Apple over targeted ads

Apple CEO Tim Cook (left) and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg (right). PHOTO: BBC

Social media giant Facebook opened fire on Apple on Wednesday, saying the iPhone maker’s new measures on data collection and targeted advertisements will affect small businesses.

The dispute between the tech giants centers on changes to the latest version of Apple’s iOS operating software, which includes a tracking transparency feature that Facebook says will cripple its ability to serve targeted ads.

Many of Facebook’s advertisers are small businesses, and he says it relies on user data to generate ads in ways that are more relevant and more likely to generate revenue.

“It’s about controlling the Internet as a whole and how they try to control personalized advertising,” Facebook VP of Business Products Dan Levy said in a conference call.

The social network took out full-page newspaper ads in major markets to make their case and launched a “Speak Up for Small Businesses” website.

Apple initially declined to comment on the Facebook attack.

At a data privacy conference in Brussels last week, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi predicted that the new iOS features would cause drama.

“It is already clear that some companies are going to do everything they can to stop the application tracking transparency feature … and to maintain their unrestricted access to people’s data,” Federighi said.

“We need the world to see those arguments for what they are: a blatant attempt to maintain the status quo that invades privacy.”

– User privacy against ad revenue –

The changes coming in iOS 14, the software that powers iPhones and iPads, include applications asking users for permission through the tracking feature to collect and share device identification data.

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That data is then linked with other user and device data to generate targeted ads.

After the change was revealed earlier this year, Facebook said the update would cut revenue for developers who rely on their in-app ad network.

The tests found that revenue from the platform that allows Facebook to target in-app ads dropped by more than half when personalization was thwarted, the social network explained.

Facebook accuses Apple of wanting to boost sales of services and digital content in its App Store, where it obtains a share of financial transactions, under the pretext of promoting privacy.

“We believe Apple is behaving anticompetitively by using its control of the App Store to benefit its bottom line at the expense of application developers and small businesses,” Levy said.

Facebook supports a lawsuit filed against Apple by Epic Games for launching Fortnite from the App Store for eluding payment of transaction fees, according to Levy.

– “Moms and dads” –

Small business owners participated in Facebook’s conference call to explain how targeted ads had helped them survive the pandemic and how Apple’s move would negatively affect them.

“At the end of the day, we are telling a story, not selling a product,” Hrag Kalebjian said of his Henry’s House of Coffee family business in San Francisco.

“We are not a corporation, we are moms and dads,” he added.

“We’re breaking our butts to do it online, and these upcoming changes will make it more difficult.”

Monique Wilsondebriano, who founded the Charleston Gourmet Burger Company in South Carolina with her husband, said that “there was no possible way our business could be where it is today without personalized ads, no way, certainly.”

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