2021-01-28

Facebook Takes Out Full-Page Newspaper Ads to Attack Apple’s Changes Strengthening iOS Privacy

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Hartley Charlton, writing for MacRumors:

The ads are running in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal,
and Washington Post, feature the headline “We’re standing up to
Apple for small businesses everywhere.”

Earlier this year, Apple introduced a number of privacy changes
that curb the ability of companies like Facebook to gather data on
users and target adverts. In iOS 14, Apple has made the
“Identifier for Advertisers,” used by Facebook and its advertising
partners for ad targeting, an opt-in feature, providing more
transparency for users who would prefer not to be tracked in apps
and on websites. The update simply asks users if they want to
agree to ad tracking or prevent cross-app and cross-site tracking
to provide targeted ads.

iOS 14 also has a prominent “Tracking” section in the Privacy
portion of the Settings app, where users can disable the option
for apps to track them altogether. Even if this feature is toggled
off, apps must still ask permission to track users across apps and
websites owned by other companies, which is a blow to the silent
ad-related tracking that has been going on behind the scenes.

And people say Facebook has hurt the newspaper advertising industry. They’re helping!

A full-page newspaper print ad for issue messaging has always had a weird target audience. Most full-page newspaper ads are trying to reach most of the people who read the paper. Full-page issue messaging ads are about reaching very specific demographics in a conspicuous way. But in today’s world, it’s kind of transparent whom Facebook is targeting here: old white politicians.

I think it’s pretty clear what Facebook wants: they want mobile app privacy to go back to the Wild West days of a decade ago, when apps could get away with whatever was technically possible, with all data hoovering invisible to users. They can get that on iOS only two ways: (a) if Apple changes its mind, or (b) if governments around the world force Apple’s hand, by declaring that Apple’s actions in the name of privacy are in fact the abuse of some made-up monopoly. Option (a) is not going to happen, so Facebook is going all-in on (b).

Here’s the thing. Apple isn’t blocking the ability for Facebook to personalize ads, in any way. Apple is just providing users with control over their own privacy. Users can easily choose to keep providing Facebook (and anyone else) with all the information they want. Or they can choose not to.

Facebook sees Apple providing users with awareness of and control over their online privacy as Apple taking away from Facebook something that Facebook rightfully considers rightfully theirs. This is no different than telemarketers feeling like you’re doing them wrong when you add your phone number to a do-not-call list.

I’ll repeat what I wrote in September:

Just because there is now a multi-billion-dollar industry based on
the abject betrayal of our privacy doesn’t mean the sociopaths who
built it have any right whatsoever to continue getting away with
it. They talk in circles but their argument boils down to
entitlement: they think our privacy is theirs for the taking
because they’ve been getting away with taking it without our
knowledge, and it is valuable. No action Apple can take against
the tracking industry is too strong.

Also worth pointing out: the apostrophe in the Facebook newspaper ad’s headline is wrong. A big old dumb quote mark.