Apple is taking another step towards giving users control over their data and obtain privacy. From this spring your iPhone’s IOS will force all apps to ask you to opt in, if you are okay with being tracked. The current model is that you have to opt out, if you don’t want to be tracked. Most people are too lazy to do anything and therefore the opt in model is what privacy advocates want and companies like Facebook fear. This has created a war between Apple and Facebook.
For long, Apple has been working seriously with privacy, e.g. with on-device processing and the Safari browser was among the first to automatically block third-party tracking. Now, Apple’s new operating system will introduce App Tracking Transparency and require consumers to opt in, if they’ll allow businesses to track their data and use it for personalized advertising. This was the message from Apple’s CEO Tim Cooks at this year’s Consumer, Privacy and Data Protection Conference, CPDP, in Bruxelles in January.
His talk received a lot of main stream press attention and acknowledgement at social media. But Facebook, who relies heavily on users’ data and got 98% of it’s earnings last year from its advertising business, was not pleased. It placed a full-page ads in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post accusing Apple of hurting small businesses. “We are standing up to Apple for small business everywhere,” Facebook wrote as if it did not primoraily stand up for itselv. Facebook even created a website where small businesses can voice their concerns about Apple’s decision.
Facebook’s main claim – that it hurts small businesses – is more or less bollocks. According the Harvard Business Review, HBR, the numbers Facebook use to show how it will hurt small businesses are almost certainly too high, and the article points to how Facebook tends to manipulate with its numbers. However, HBR writes:
The Electronic Frontier Foundation backs the criticism of Facebook, who is also accusing Apple of anticompetitive behaviour.
“So why the outcry from Facebook? Facebook claims that this change from Apple will hurt small businesses who benefit from access to targeted advertising services, but Facebook is not telling you the whole story. This is really about who benefits from the normalization of surveillance-powered advertising (hint: it’s not users or small businesses), and what Facebook stands to lose if its users learn more about exactly what it and other data brokers are up to behind the scenes.”
Another US company, Mozilla, who is also strong on privacy with its Firefox browser, thanks Apple for standing strong on privacy.
You can accuse Apple of many things like anticompetitive behaviour in certains areas and tax speculation. But on privacy we at DataEthics.eu have long been applauding Apple.