Opinion | Facebook’s Tone-Deaf Attack on Apple


Protect Your Access to the Internet

If there’s anything that Facebook has learned from its many years of cozying up to the Trump administration, it’s figuring out that shamelessness works.

That is the only explanation I can come up with after seeing the social networking giant’s righteous ad campaign this week against Apple.

Casting itself as the protector of small businesses in full-page ads in — irony alert — big newspapers, Facebook is criticizing Apple for planning to give users of its popular devices like the iPhone more control over the data they share with third-party apps.

Starting next year, Apple will ask mobile users to “opt in” to accept third-party tracking of their digital activity (right now, the system defaults to tracking and requires users to “opt out” if they don’t want to be followed). Facebook relies on tracking to target ads at customers.

Facebook declared in the newspaper ads that it was “standing up to Apple” and warned that such a change will be the ruin of small businesses.

More like the ruin of Facebook. The company is terrified that giving users single-click power to control their own information will force people to realize just how loud is the data-sucking sound coming from Facebook’s app.

Let’s be clear: Apple is no saint. While looking and acting like a defender of user privacy has long been a core tenet of the company, its bottom line does not depend on advertising, and ridding the world of intrusive marketing by kneecapping Facebook is good for its business.

In fact, Apple has its own sins to answer for. Many people claim it has too much control over the third-party developers that are dependent on Apple’s mobile app ecosystem, an issue that has gained a lot of regulatory and legal attention of late. Apple takes a 30 percent cut of many of the transactions that take place in the App Store, and many companies say that fee is unreasonably high; some say it is predatory.

The regulatory and legal questions around Apple’s practices are behind Facebook’s strategy that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. In its attack ads on Apple, Facebook added that it would help antitrust regulators and others — like the Fortnite parent company Epic Games — on the App…