Facebook’s campaign against Apple is a ‘laughable’ distraction tactic, says privacy group

In November, Apple said that it would roll out a feature called App Tracking Transparency that would allow users to opt out of having their data collected and aggregated between apps that would affect companies’ ability to send targeted advertising.

This would come in the form of a pop-up on iOS 14 and iPadOS 14, asking users if they want to allow an app to “track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites”.

Facebook responded saying that Apple was feigning its privacy concerns, and was actually more concerned with hiding its own privacy failings, favouring its own apps, and moving “away from innovative hardware products to data-driven software and media”.

In response to Facebook’s claims, Apple has said that users still had the choice to opt-in to data tracking.

“We believe that this is a simple matter of standing up for our users. 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,” Apple said in a statement.

Apple’s change was supported by groups such as Amnesty International and Mozilla, and now has the support of the EFF, who has called Facebook’s comments a “laughable attempt from Facebook to distract you from its poor track record of anticompetitive behavior and privacy issues”.

The organization went on to claim that Facebook had built an “empire” around tracking users.

“This latest campaign from Facebook is one more direct attack against our privacy and, despite its slick packaging, it’s also an attack against other businesses, both large and small”, the EFF wrote.

Facebook had repeatedly used small businesses’ inability to use targeted advertising to challenge Apple’s claims, arguing that it is a “prompt that is seemingly designed to discourage people from opting in”, according to Steve Satterfield, Facebook’s director of privacy and public policy.

However, Satterfield said he did not “think [Facebook has] any plans to provide more information” about its claims around businesses’ revenue and sales figures.

“In reality, a number of studies have shown that most of the money made from targeted advertising does not reach the creators of the content—the app developers and the content they host”, wrote Andrés Arrieta, the EFF’s Director Consumer Privacy Engineering.

“Instead, the majority of any extra money earned by targeted ads ends up in the pockets of these data brokers. Some names are very well-known, like Facebook and Google, but many more are … companies that most users have never even heard of.”

It goes on to say that Facebook and a handful of other companies keep the online advertising market “at their mercy” and that small businesses cannot compete with larger advertising networks.

Facebook did not respond to The Independent’s request for comment before publication.

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