Facebook Challenges Apple’s New iOS Privacy Policy

On Wednesday, Facebook announced a challenge Apple’s new iOS 14 policy related to privacy changes, which Facebook claims “will have a harmful impact on many small businesses that are struggling to stay afloat and on the free internet that we all rely on more than ever.”

In September, Apple announced that privacy changes would be coming with iOS 14, which would be enforced next year. This labeling shed a light on the information that apps can track about a user. Specifically, “App Store product pages will feature a new privacy information section to help users understand an app’s privacy practices.” Moreover, on iOS 14, “apps will be required to receive user permission to track users across apps or websites owned by other companies, or to access the device’s advertising identifier. We are committed to ensuring users can choose whether or not they allow an app to track them.”

However, Facebook claimed in its blog post that this new policy “is about profit, not privacy” because it will allegedly “force businesses to turn to subscriptions and other in-app payments,” of which Apple takes a commission, “meaning Apple will profit and many free services will have to start charging or exit the market.”

Additionally, Facebook contended that Apple is “hurting small businesses and publishers who are already struggling in a pandemic” because of their inability to use targeted advertising, which would allegedly ineffectively use their budgeted funds for advertising. Facebook also stated that Apple is not “playing by (its) own rules” because its “own personalized ad platform isn’t subject to the new iOS policy” and the Facebook “disagree(s) with Apple’s approach, yet (it has) no choice but to show (Apple’s) prompt.” Last month, Facebook made similar allegations, as reported by Bloomberg, while Apple defended this move and accused Facebook of a “disregard for user privacy.”

Dan Levy, Facebook’s VP for Ads and Business Products, pointed to the fact that “the internet has made marketing accessible and affordable. Dozens of platforms exist to support small businesses with setting up websites, payments, logistics and financing, but you need to find customers to grow a business. On Facebook you can run a campaign with a phone and a few dollars – you no longer need an expensive agency, a five-figure budget or fancy production equipment.” As a result, Levy added that Apple’s new policy will be “benefitting big businesses and hurting small businesses…So we’re speaking up for small businesses.”

Previously, Facebook outlined how its business could be impacted by this policy, noting that its Audience Network revenue could be reduced by 50% because of its heavy reliance on data. This potential revenue decline would suggest at least one reasoning behind Facebook’s push back against this new policy. Meanwhile, in September, The Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media sent a letter to Apple to discuss these changes.

Facebook has launched a “speak up for small business” site on which small business owners speak about Apple’s changes, explains what will happen, and encourages the use of the #SpeakUpForSmall to discuss the change. Moreover, according to TechCrunch, Facebook also placed print ads in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post claiming that it is “standing up to Apple for small businesses everywhere.” In the blog post, Facebook outlined a variety of steps it claimed to be taking to support small businesses.

As Law Street Media has covered, Epic Games sued Apple in August over another app store policy, its 30% commission on app sales and in-app purchases on the Apple App Store, claiming the practice was anticompetitive. Later that month, Epic Games was granted a partial temporary restraining order finding that Epic Games’ affiliates should not have been banned by Apple after Epic Games breached its agreement with Apple when it purportedly circumvented Apple’s in-app purchase system. Epic Games answered Apple’s counterclaims after Apple accused the company of merely seeking money.