Facebook tries to outmaneuver Apple’s privacy pop-up with its own tracking prompt

Facebook will prompt users of its mobile app to opt-in to device tracking services prior to the Apple opt-in page that will ship with iOS 14.

Facebook tracking prompt in iOS
Facebook’s privacy and tracking prompt that appears before Apple’s pop-up

In an attempt to shortcut the privacy tools that Apple will include in iOS 14, Facebook is firing back with its own tracking opt-in page. The page will show up after an individual chooses to download the software and before the Apple prompt. 

CNBC broke this story on Monday, February 1, when Facebook began testing the message, which explains that the collected data will be used to:

The message goes on to say that “To provide a better ads experience, we need permission to use future activity that other apps and websites send us from this device.”

Facebook controls this message, but does it help?

By providing its own messaging, Facebook can better control the narrative behind why they’re collecting your data. They appeal both to users’ personal needs by helping to provide them better ad experiences and their sense of community by saying they’re supporting small businesses.

Facebook’s appeal to users doesn’t hold much water. Anyone who’s spent any amount of time on the internet has been followed by retargeted ads that feel a little too personal. The argument assumes that consumers want to see ads in their social feeds, and further assumes that consumers want ever-more-personalized ads. 

And Facebook’s stance as a champion for small businesses continues to ring hollow, as the 

billions of dollars in ad revenue Facebook gains from brands of all sizes looms over any claims of protecting the little guy.

The Facebook vs. Apple saga continues

This is only the latest move in the fight between these two tech giants. Facebook joined a lawsuit against Apple’s 30 percent take in the App store. Then Apple released its plans to change App Store listings to promote user privacy by informing app users of all the types of data an app will collect prior to download. 

Facebook shot back with two full-page ads in the New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal that claimed Apple was using its influence to unfairly attack small business revenue streams—and that Facebook stands with small businesses against Apple.

Apple’s CEO Tim Cook then responded by saying Apple believes that “users should have the choice over the data that is being collected about them and how it’s used.” His claim is that Facebook can collect data on their app, but they will need to ask iOS users for their permission. 

It’s clear that on some level both of these companies are attempting to protect individual users, small businesses, and their revenue streams in the face of changing data privacy and security issues. But it’s becoming increasingly apparent that Apple is taking actions to protect privacy, while Facebook is taking actions to protect the data collection processes that keep their lights on.

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Tamara Scott is a writer and content strategist based in Nashville. With a background in English education, she plans and writes clear, instructive content for marketers and technology users of all skill levels. Follow @t_scottie