Data Science
Aug 30, 2021

Facebook vs. Apple: The Privacy War

Tori Stroup

Image courtesy of Pixaby.

Are you ready for the battle of the year?

Facebook vs. Apple: two tech giants battling it out about the upcoming changes to Apple privacy settings.

With Apple in the corner of wanting to protect consumer data rights to Facebook wanting to protect businesses and the revenue that comes from personalized advertising -- it will be a feud for the history books and could change the internet as we know it.

In this article, we’ll take a look at what’s happening right now between these two powerhouse companies and dig into the privacy changes that are pinning them up against one another.

Here’s a quick look at what we’ll cover throughout this article:

  • What is the feud between Facebook and Apple all about?
  • What to expect from Apple’s new privacy changes
  • Why this impacts Facebook and its response
  • How this will affect the consumer

What is the Feud Between Facebook and Apple All About?

Have you ever received a digital ad that seems like it reads your mind? Or does it seem like Facebook and other apps are listening to your conversations and serving you with ads related to the things you just talked about?

Well, the good news is these apps aren’t reading your mind, and they’re not actually using your camera or microphone to gather intel on you.

In fact, you’re most likely consenting to provide these tech giants with your data without even realizing it. That’s because when you download an app, you’re providing them with consent to track your digital actions.

Many people don’t realize that this is something that is written into most terms and conditions when you download a new app. Let’s be honest, do we ever really take time to read all of the fine print? No.

But Apple is taking action to help protect customer data and enforce stronger privacy rules related to app sharing. They recently announced that its newest software updates will require users to provide apps with permission to track their activity across various apps and websites.

With this new software, Apple is going to implement new app tracking transparent efforts that will help balance what companies can see and allow users to take control over their own data.

What to Expect From Apple’s New Privacy Changes

The introduction of iOS14 provided a level of insight into what companies accessed from their customers via apps and web traffic, but one thing it lacked was the ability to prove this.

The rollout of iOS15 will address this issue and require these businesses to do more than simply let users know what they are accessing. It allows us to examine how often apps are actually accessing user data and identify what third-party domains they are contacting.

This means there’s a much stronger checks and balances system within the process now.

No longer can apps slyly get by collecting all of your data by adding a line in their ten-page terms and conditions that no one reads. Users will now have the power to say who can track them and when.

There are a variety of things you can expect to see with the new iOS15 release including things like hide my email, Safari IP protection, mail privacy protection, and more. But we’re going to spend our time focusing on two of the biggest elements that are impacting social media giants, like Facebook.

App Privacy Report

The App Privacy Report lists out what apps are using privacy permissions on a person’s device. It also lists out what permissions have been granted to that particular app, this can include things like:

  • Camera access
  • Microphone access
  • Location access

Users will also be able to see when apps have used their information and details on third-party domains that apps have contacted. This will provide a full view of how these apps are using user data to track and target them.

With the App Privacy Report, consumers can know exactly what apps are tracking them across various platforms. It will provide a list of the apps currently tracking behaviors and identify exactly what these apps are tracking including things like location, camera, photos, and more. Image courtesy of Apple.

This report can be found in the Settings area on an iPhone and can be checked whenever a user chooses to. It will provide transparency and allow the iPhone user to know what apps are tracking their data and better manage their privacy.

App Tracking Transparency

When someone downloads an app, they are asked whether they would like to “Allow or Ask App Not to Track” them. By choosing to not allow an app to track, users are protected from apps capturing data across various platforms and websites.

App Tracking Transparency is a new feature that will be rolled out to all Apple users and will give them the power when it comes to allowing businesses to track their digital behaviors. With a simple yes or no option, consumers can now block apps from gathering out of app data. Image courtesy of 9To5Mac.

One caveat is that it doesn’t limit the data they can collect within the app experience itself. So the company that owns the app someone is logged into, they can still track what activities are taking place.

App Tracking Transparency just adds another layer to the privacy initiatives that Apple is putting in place. This gives the user more control over what apps can and cannot track their information.

Of course this new policy has some big corporations scrambling to determine how they’ll continue to operate and grow revenue -- and the most vocal of those is Facebook.

The Battle of the Tech Giants: Who Will Prevail?

A feud between Facebook and Apple isn’t necessarily something new. In fact the tech giants have had minor scuffs before, with CEOs taking shots at one another here and there. But now that Apple is making it harder for Facebook to run it’s business, things are getting heated.

Facebook has made its stance on the initiatives Apple plans to rollout and isn’t going down easy. This is likely a battle we’ll continue to hear about as we inch closer and closer to the new rollout of iOS15.  

Let’s take a deeper dive into why these privacy updates impact Facebook and their response to this era in customer privacy.

Why This Impacts Facebook

So at this point, the question in your mind may be -- “why is Facebook so concerned about what Apple is doing?”

Well it all comes down to how Facebook makes its money. When you consider that ad sales are the primary source of Facebook’s revenue, you can quickly put two and two together.

Nearly all of Facebook’s revenue comes from its advertising efforts. When you look at this graph, it’s easy to see that digital advertising is a top priority for the network and why they’d want to fight to protect that capability. Image courtesy of Statista.

The vast majority of revenue brought in by Facebook is through personalized advertising purchased by businesses that use the site for marketing. Without the insights they gain from tracking their app users, they’ll no longer have the data to provide highly targeted (almost creepy) ads like they used to.

For Facebook, this new privacy change cuts to the core and will drastically impact their current business model. As you can assume, Facebook had a few things to say about these upcoming privacy changes for Apple users.

What’s interesting here is that while these two companies run completely different business models, they need each other to keep their customers interested.

Apple needs companies like Facebook to create apps for their customers to download on their iPhones. While Facebook needs operating systems that allow users to use their apps on the go. Without each other, these businesses won’t thrive in their own environment and before now their delicate ecosystem hasn’t been shaken.

That ecosystem is about to get disrupted and these two companies will need to find a way to work together to keep the consumer satisfied, while still bringing in revenue for their own businesses.

Facebook’s Response

When all this happened, Facebook went on the offensive. The company took this as a huge stab at the way they run their business and wanted to make sure that their voice was heard loud and clear.

Launching campaigns that stated that Apple isn’t implementing these privacy changes with the customer in mind, they’re doing it for their own gains. Claiming that small businesses will take a hit and have a hard time reaching their customers as a result of these privacy changes.

Facebook made its voice heard and promoted their concerns through many outlets including a website designed to slam Apple’s move stating that it’s potentially hurtful for small businesses. They also took out full-page ads in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Financial Times encouraging people to stand up to Apple.

Facebook hasn’t taken this new announcement lightly and has been speaking out against Apple in a very public way. This is one of the newspaper ads that Facebook has published in it’s efforts to gain a backing on why these privacy changes are bad for the consumer. Image courtesy of The Verge.

Facebook’s biggest talking point in all of their campaigns against Apple is that it will change the way people use the internet today. That there will no longer be free internet services because the lack of personalized advertising will force businesses to put their focus on other revenue-driving channels like charging subscription fees or adding in-app purchases.  

It seems that Facebook will continue to fight this battle until the end, as Apple holds strong on it’s stance to roll out these new privacy efforts. Seeing as these are two of well-known tech giants it will be interesting to see how this all plays out and who comes out on top.

What Does This Mean for the Consumer?

So now that you have the rundown on what’s going on between Apple and Facebook, you may be wondering how this is going to impact the consumer.

While this change will most likely have a pretty significant impact on how businesses market to their audiences, it probably won’t have much of an impact on the consumers themselves.

Consumers will notice that they are being asked to provide permissions and have the ability to see how apps are using their data, but other than that not much is changing for them.

The biggest impact for the consumer is the improved privacy protections they’ll receive with this new rollout. From a privacy standpoint, consumers will have more control over what businesses can and can’t track.

As more consumers become concerned with providing businesses with their personal data and the potential of data leaks for stolen identities -- most consumers would likely vote in favor of  more privacy in their digital lives.

The Future of Data Privacy, Apple, and Facebook

At this point, only time will tell what the future of data privacy and the feud between Apple and Facebook will bring. One thing’s for sure, it’s going to be a defining moment in the digital world and will drive changes in the future to how businesses target customers and drive revenue.

If your business spends a good deal of time targeting users through Facebook ads or third-party data, you’ll want to watch closely to see how this will impact your marketing efforts. By staying ahead of what’s going on in the industry, you can plan and prepare to adjust your marketing spend and continue to reach your customers -- just in new ways.

For consumers, this move towards stronger privacy protection is something they’ll most likely welcome. The more control over their own data, the more power they have to dictate which companies can and cannot track their behaviors.

No matter how it all plays out, we’ll soon see what happens when two tech giants battle and learn how that may impact the digital world as we know it.