The epic saga of the Zucc vs Tim Apple has been in full swing for some time now. Relationships between companies in the tech world can be strange and often tense at times, but an increasing amount of attention has been directed towards Facebook and Apple and their ongoing privacy war.
In the age of tech companies encroaching on the private data of users more and more every day, and the increasing awareness of consumers of their own digital privacy, we’ve entered into somewhat of a digital cold war, with Facebook and Apple as the main protagonists.
Let’s rewind to 2020 and find out where it all began
In the making of Apple’s iOS 14 update, which was released last year, Apple decided to give iOS users the choice of whether or not their data can be shared with developers like Facebook. In Layman’s terms, this meant that if you didn’t want Facebook (or any other app for that matter) to collect unique device identifying information or track your activity, you can just say “no”, and that’s it.
This feature was called App Tracking Transparency and was released in iOS 14.5. We wrote about it on the Created Tech website if you want to check it out in more detail.
This had a massive impact on how Facebook operates, and more specifically, a massive impact on their Audience Network advertising system. This system is Facebook’s way of providing advertising to third-party app developers who don’t really have the resources to do this themselves.
Facebook uses this information collected from your device to serve targeted ads, which is why most of those third-party developers love the system. They get to serve their users targeted ads via Facebook’s system, and pay a small chunk of their earnings to Facebook for the privilege.
Think of those annoying pop ups you get while playing mobile games. The aim of Facebook’s Audience Network system is to serve you relevant ads you’re more likely to click on.
Losing out on this targeted information means that Facebook will simply not have vital data allowing them to more effectively serve ads to individual users. This is an issue for Facebook because the Audience Network system was quite the earner for them up until this point, and losing out on this data meant that the revenue could drop by billions of dollars each year.
So, like the entitled extra-terrestrial cry-baby he is, the Zucc claimed that this kind of move by Apple would mainly hurt developers, and it’d be implementing this change at a bad time, as the pandemic was in full swing and many companies were experiencing financial issues already. Facebook was essentially insinuating that Apple was a big schoolyard bully out for the “little guy”, or third party app developers.
Apple’s response was to delay the release of the App Tracking Transparency feature, and instead released it like a boss a few months later as iOS 14.5, much to Facebook’s and the Zucc’s dismay.
It was at this point that Facebook attempted another smear campaign against Apple. And smear they did, plastering it all over the internet, media outlets, and even their own platform.
According to Facebook, Apple’s increased focus on privacy was purely for financial gain, and aimed at only allowing Apple itself to collect data, while restricting any and all competitors from collecting said data. This is, of course, a ridiculous claim as I’ll explain shortly.
So let’s talk about why Apple’s new privacy stance is such a big deal for Facebook.
Firstly, there is a fundamental difference between Facebook and Apple’s business model. The overwhelming majority of Apple’s revenue comes from hardware sales, like iPhones or Mac computers – not software or user data. Contrasted with Facebook – earning the vast majority of revenue by collecting and then selling personal data generated by Facebook users.
Such a bold privacy update by Apple is actually an existential threat to Facebook, because the iOS user base is huge and these days, most people access Facebook from their mobile device, not their desktops.
Severely limiting Facebook’s ability to scrape accurate data from these users is a direct blow to their bottom line. Facebook will simply earn much less revenue due to not being able to serve targeted ads to iOS users, or even just selling this data to third parties.
Perhaps the most nefarious aspect of Apple’s privacy changes in Facebook’s eyes however is that this sets a dangerous precedent for additional privacy restrictions in the future. In an ideal world, Facebook would have access to every aspect of your personal life. Medical records, chat records, shopping lists, Google searches, even the time of day you usually go to the toilet (yes, that’s actually a thing).
In recent years, Apple has adopted a pro-privacy stance, for example in The . The public is also becoming more privacy conscious as well, propelled by events such as the 2017 Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal or the Snowden whistleblower files.
Apple has realized this and has positioned itself to take advantage of it. If the timeline of Apple’s increasing focus on privacy continues to develop, Facebook may very well find one of its biggest sources of revenue completely drying up.
One thing I will mention is that don’t think Apple is doing this out of the goodness of their own heart, and they’re not perfect either. There are currently big issues surrounding Apple and their monopolisation of apps on the app store, and the Apple ecosystem is as closed down as it gets.
In regards to privacy – sure, senior Apple executives like Tim Cook have expressed in the past that privacy is a right worth fighting for, and maybe this is a major driving factor.
However, Apple’s lack of dependence on collecting personal data to produce revenue means that they can leverage increased privacy to promote and market the very products they already sell. Facebook, of course, cannot do this.
One thing’s for sure though, whatever Apple’s true motivation is, the end result is still a positive one for consumers, and a very ominous one for Facebook.
And that, is why Facebook hates Apple.