Apple defends anti-tracking feature after Facebook claimed it was harmful for small businesses

Apple says that their forthcoming App Tracking Transparency feature is “a simple matter of standing up for our users”. They made the statement after Facebook criticised Apple in an ad, saying that Apple’s “forced software update” will limit businesses’ ability to run personalised ads”.

Facebook’s claims

“Without personalised ads, Facebook data shows that the average small business advertiser stands to see a cut of over 60% in their sales for every dollar they spend,” wrote Facebook in their ad.

Source: Twitter

Facebook also post a blog with more details, including how iOS 14’s App Tracking Transparency is about profit—not transparency. The social media platform also stated that they will back up Epic Games in its ongoing legal battle with the App Store.

“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,” continued Facebook.

Here’s the overview of Facebook’s detailed blog post:

1. They’re creating a policy—enforced via iOS 14’s App Tracking Transparency— that’s about profit, not privacy. It will force businesses to turn to subscriptions and other in-app payments for revenue, meaning Apple will profit and many free services will have to start charging or exit the market.

2. They’re hurting small businesses and publishers who are already struggling in a pandemic. These changes will directly affect their ability to use their advertising budgets efficiently and effectively. Our studies show, without personalised ads powered by their own data, small businesses could see a cut of over 60% of website sales from ads. We don’t anticipate the proposed iOS 14 changes to cause a full loss of personalisation but rather a move in that direction over the longer term.

3. They’re not playing by their own rules. Apple’s own personalised ad platform isn’t subject to the new iOS 14 policy. 

4. We disagree with Apple’s approach, yet we have no choice but to show their prompt. If we don’t, we’ll face retaliation from Apple, which could only further harm the businesses we want to support. We can’t take that risk.


Apple’s response

After being asked to give a statement by 9to5Mac, Apple said that their anti-tracking feature on iOS 14 is standing up to users. They also said that users “should know when their data is being collected and shared across other apps and websites”—and they should have the choice to allow that or not.

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“App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 does not require Facebook to change its approach to tracking users and creating targeted advertising, it simply requires they give users a choice,” continued Apple.

In a page by Apple about user privacy and data use, the company explained how its App Tracking Transparency feature works. Users will be able to learn about what kind of data an app may collect, and whether the information is used to track them or is linked to an identity or a device.

With iOS 14, iPadOS 14 and tvOS 14, apps will need to receive the user’s permission through the App Tracking Transparency framework in order to track them or access their device’s advertising identifier. Apps also need to include a purpose string in the system prompt that explains why they’d like to track the user. 

Once available in 2021, the App Tracking Transparency feature will be accessible by opening the Settings app, then looking for the Privacy menu, and looking for the Tracking section. Here, you will be able to see which apps have required permission to track them, and you can even revoke or grant permission if you want.


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Dzamira Dzafri