Facebook Hits Back At Apple’s iOS 14 Privacy Update

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While privacy experts praised Apple’s upcoming iOS 14 updates, Facebook said the new features could cut its advertising business in half.

Facebook is lambasting an upcoming Apple mobile operating system privacy update, which requires application to ask users for permission before collecting and sharing their data.

In the iOS 14 update, Apple iPhone and iPad users have an explicit option to opt out of allowing apps to collect data using the Apple device identifier (IDFA). IDFA is a distinctive number associated with a mobile device. Facebook (and other apps) can sell data collected via IDFA to third-party advertisers, who can then use that data to better target their ads.

Apple announced the feature at its Worldwide Developers Conference in June, telling users that the move will make ad tracking more transparent and give them more control over their data. This week, however, Facebook hit back against the feature, protesting that it could lead to a more than 50 percent drop in its Audience Network business, which is an in-app advertising network for mobile apps.

“Ultimately, despite our best efforts, Apple’s updates may render Audience Network so ineffective on iOS 14 that it may not make sense to offer it on iOS 14,” said Facebook in a Wednesday post. “We expect less impact to our own advertising business, and we’re committed to supporting advertisers and publishers through these updates.”

The advertising business allows advertisers to target their ads toward customers using mobile sites and apps – other than Facebook. Facebook said that as a result of this feature in iOS, the ability of advertising publishers to accurately target and measure their campaigns on Audience Network will be impacted – impacting their ability to monetize via the Audience Network.

Facebook – which has had its fair share of privacy troubles relating to data collection and advertising – on Wednesday said it would not collect the IDFA on its own apps on iOS 14 devices. However, it said “we may revisit this decision as Apple offers more guidance.” It also stressed that the company would remind users that they have a choice about how their information is used on Facebook.

Chris Hazelton, director of security solutions at Lookout, told Threatpost that the privacy changes in iOS 14 are part of an “unstoppable trend” to increase the protection of user privacy. “Fighting this trend is like fight the ocean tides; you can’t,” he told Threatpost. “You have to adapt to the trend and innovate or die.”

“Users are more in control of their personal information,” he said. “They can now decide on an app-by-app  basis which will have access to personal data. Previously, iOS users only had the choice between sharing all their information when using apps, or declining to share and not having access to apps. Now Apple has created levers for users to more easily pick and choose the developers with which they share personal information.”

Facebook has long ran into trouble when it comes to balancing its advertising efforts with users’ data privacy, starting with the watershed Cambridge Analytica privacy snafu in 2018.  After that, the company has since suspended tens of thousands of apps as part of its ongoing investigation into how third-party apps on its platform collect, handle and utilize users’ personal data. Regardless, the company has still struggled with privacy, in 2019 saying that 100 third-party app developers improperly accessed the names and profile pictures of members in various Facebook groups.

While iOS 14 is expected to roll out later this year, Apple has not yet specified the exact date it will launch.

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