The ad tracking row heats up

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Apple's Tim Cook (left) and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg

Apple’s Tim Cook (left) and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg

A new feature is being introduced to iPhones and iPads this week which is causing a huge rift between Apple and Facebook.

It will allow device users to say no to having their data collected by any app.

Facebook has been put in a spin by this because user data – and the advertising it can generate – is what makes the company so profitable. This update could deal a severe blow to its business model.

What’s it about?

The row focuses on a unique device identifier on every iPhone and iPad, called the IDFA (identifier for advertisers). Companies which sell mobile ads, including Facebook, use this IDFA to both target ads and estimate their effectiveness.

The IDFA can also be paired with other tech, such as Facebook’s tracking pixels or tracking cookies, which follow users around the web, to learn even more about you.

But when iOS 14.5 comes out this week, the new App Tracking Transparency feature will be on by default. It will force app developers to explicitly ask for permission from users to use this IDFA.

Surveys suggest, and Facebook acknowledges, that up to 80% will say no.

If you want to know how much Facebook already tracks you on other sites and apps, there’s a helpful tool on Facebook.

Why is Apple doing this?

Phone with graphic of digital information rising off it

How much data we share from our devices is becoming the new battlefield for the tech giants

Apple has little interest in its customers’ data because it makes money from selling devices and in-app purchases, rather than from advertising. Plus it has always marketed itself as a privacy-first company.

Back in 2010, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs acknowledged that some people didn’t care about how much data they shared, but said they should always be informed of how it was being used.

“Privacy means people know what they’re signing up for, in plain English and repeatedly… ask them, ask them every time,” he said.

More recently, in what many saw as a thinly-veiled reference to Facebook, current chief executive Tim Cook said: “If a business is built on misleading users, on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform.”

Apple is baking privacy into its systems. Its…

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