Facebook And Apple Continue To Fight For User Data

Facebook and Apple continue to fight for user data, the usage of which can change after the new iOS 14 update.

Facebook has recently launched a major PR campaign “Speaking Up for Small Businesses”, openly opposing Apple’s new iOS 14 update and claiming how it stands to affect small businesses advertising their businesses on Facebook and its connected apps. But what does this update include, and more importantly, why should you care about it? Read below…

The Apple iOS 14 update

Apple has always been at the forefront of “protecting” user data, and with the latest iOS 14 update, apps are required to show a prompt asking whether you’d like it to track your activities across other websites and apps.

The Apple iOS

This means that you can now preserve your digital activities from apps like Facebook, Instagram, and more so you can have a better digital experience that isn’t marred by constant ads that talk about products you’ve been searching for or selling you items you probably don’t even need.

And while this can be great news on the front, there are a lot of businesses that can lose a huge chunk of their audience if personalized targeting is taken away from them.

First: What’s personalized targeting?

Personalized targeting or ads are promotions that are shown based on your activities on digital platforms. Basically, ads like these use your keyword search patterns, app usage, music preferences, and online shopping habits to show you ads similar to what you like. So now you know why you run out of your paycheck mid of the month. It’s personalized ads and… your spending habits as well.

But personal attacks aside, it would be super cool if you’re spared from ads that make you feel like someone’s constantly following you. But if you really think this update will lead to that, you’re wrong.

Just the fact that you’re active on digital platforms and own a phone from a giant tech brand like Apple is enough for your data to be available on the internet and no update can change that. Why? Because tech giants like Apple, Google, and Facebook rely on that very data to grow. If you haven’t heard it yet: Data is the next Bitcoin. Or any other asset that you deem superextra500% valuable. User data helps these corporations cash in on better, more accurate advertisements; adverts that are the main source of revenue for these brands.

Is that why Facebook and Apple are so angry?

why Facebook and Apple are so angry

Facebook’s “Speaking Up for Small Businesses” may be altruistic in the essence, but don’t forget that the company is one of the core examples of capitalism in the modern world. Being an ultra major social media company, Facebook has relied far too long on user data to grow itself an almost monopolist empire (which, by the way, people want to break up). And while yes, the platform is a great advertising medium for small businesses and has helped millions of brands grow, it also depends largely on user data to modify and grow Facebook and its sister apps. This makes your social experience better, yes, but it’s also feeding your soul to the cloud, which isn’t really that cool; you’d know if you’ve watched Black Mirror.

Now see, I don’t want to turn this into a burn-Facebook rant. I am an advertiser on the same platform and without it, I wouldn’t know half the things I do today. But I’m also an active Facebook user and as a user, if you understood all the intricacies that go behind targeted ads, you’ll be wary too.

But rants aside, Facebook isn’t entirely wrong. Personalized ads can be a great tool if you’re not being an incessant stalker and can actually lead to profitable sales online. For example, Sarah from Karachi owns a scarf business and wants to show her ad to women searching for warm scarves in winter. All she has to do is select the right interest or keywords, add a bit of re-targeting in the mix, and she’ll be set. Users will be able to see her ad and interact with her more often because of this. And while the targeting tapestry is dark and murky from the back, it does profit businesses to create personalized experiences for their audience. Take that away from them and you’ll leave businesses like Sarah’s grasping at straws to reach their target audience in this super-competitive digital market.

This does pose a major concern for Facebook as its advertisers rely on its pinpoint targeting approach to reach and perform better.

But that’s just one reason why Facebook is angry.

Another reason is Apple’s… hypocrisy?

Okay, so remember how I said tech giants like these rely on big data to grow? Apple is of course one of them, and while it’s advocating user privacy in its update, it has very cleverly exempted its own personalized ad platform from this policy. This means that while the prompt will let users disallow third-party apps to track their activities, Apple will still be doing that to enhance advertisements on its own apps and websites.

Like I said, clever.

Now you understand why Facebook’s so angry? It’s not only because its advertiser experience may be affected but also because it’s not getting a share of the cake and that could really be infuriating if you love cake.

What’s Apple’s take on it?

Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook took to Twitter by tweeting a rather altruistic message.

While yes, users should have control over their data, Apple’s usage of data isn’t really something that supports its CEO’s message, and people have spoken out.

What else does the update include?

According to Facebook, the update is “more about profit than policy”, and it seems to be true considering what’s called the “Apple Tax”.

Imagine that you’re a creator, developer, or a platform where you can place personalized advertisements. With Apple’s update, that feature may just be useless. So now, to earn a profit and to keep your business afloat, you introduce a paid feature in your app or a subscription on your platform or channel. That fee you’re charging will then be subject to an Apple Tax of 15% to 30%. This is huge; a potentially 30% tax on your revenue can take away a whole chunk of your profit, which really isn’t worth your while.

So what can you do?

Switch to Android?

That’s not a very feasible option for Apple users (we know you can’t adapt, sorry not sorry?), and it’s not like Android’s protecting your privacy that much (it’s owned by Google, people).

The way forward in such cases is to know your tricks. While yes, your data will always stay on the cloud, you can restrict your device from going haywire by switching off tracking by taking a deep dive into your device settings.

That, and by supporting small businesses in your area. COVID-19 has been hard on everyone, especially businesses without backup revenue channels or investments like large corporations. So while this update may impact their businesses, your support can help them grow better. So remember to engage, support, and keep your digital data limited.

Because remember: no matter what the verdict of this Facebook and Apple war ends up to be, they won’t lose much business because they’re leading brands in the global landscape. Facebook’s intentions may be laughable and Apple’s actions may be selfish, but each of them will fare pretty well in the long run. Who won’t? Users with data on the internet and small businesses running ads on these platforms. So as these tech giants fight, let’s not take sides and keep your focus on supporting businesses that can actually profit from your attention for good, rather than add to the ever-growing world of unethical capitalism that eats up the market share of the very small businesses they claim to support.

Zainab Abdul Rehman

Content and strategy specialist with a head full of ideas that I never get time to execute.

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Laszlo Meteor
Laszlo Meteor
April 18, 2021 4:32 pm

“…a better digital experience that isn’t marred by constant ads that talk about products you’ve been searching for or selling you items you probably don’t even need”
That sentence makes no sense. We’ll now see just as many ads as before except that they’ll be non-personalized. That means you’ll see way more ads trying to sell you items that you probably don’t need. The whole point of personalization is that you’re more likely to need those products than those advertised without personalization. And even if you won’t buy them, being related to your interest you’ll find those ads more interesting and less frustrating.

The Apple prompt should be this: “Do you want to see non-personal ads and thereby destroy the income source of your favorite free apps and in turn having to pay for most of those services and games that you currently enjoy for free? In return you can keep your list of page likes to yourself and no algorithm will ever use it to show you more relevant ads. Instead those 15-second ads you’ll still have to watch till the end will be boring and will have nothing to do with anything you like. Click “Show a lot of boring ads and kill my favorite apps” if you agree”.

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