Apple Policies Hit Facebook Tracking

Published · May 18, 2021

Apple rolled out new privacy changes in late April that directly contest the practices of big advertisers. The decision is already changing the internet.

Namely, the new policy compels iOS app developers to ask for permission from users before accessing IDFA, used to identify and track activity. Devs can customize the opt-in message to persuade users to enable trackers but can’t decide that for them.

Failing to comply with the new standard will be tantamount to breaking Apple’s terms of service. And the company isn’t shy about enforcing the new rules.

Users had the option to disable app tacking even before the update. However, app developers now need to ask explicit permission. Putting the opt-in front-and-center gives back power to the people who might not be as knowledgeable about privacy settings.

What Does Disabling Trackers Mean for You?

For one, applications can’t store data that could help identify you or your phone, like its IDFA number. That means that they can’t effectively use your information for ad targeting or sell your profile to data brokers.

It’s another decision in line with Apple’s privacy-oriented practices, just like the encryption on its cloud storage and the option to block ad trackers on the Safari browser. And users who prefer Chrome or Firefox can always use a Mac VPN like Express VPN to protect their online identity.

Keep in mind that companies like Facebook can still track the activity of your accounts across their own network. However, you will see fewer instances of being bombarded with ads for that product you once looked up in an online store.

The new privacy policy saw a significant backlash coming from Facebook, no less. The conglomerate bashed Apple for “anti-competitive” practices and ran numerous ad campaigns in traditional media to push against this policy.

Its main argument was that small businesses reliant on targeted ads would suffer because of Apple’s decisions.

Sounds like a valid reason, but you should consider the source. SMBs will, by all accounts, have plenty of advertising avenues to pursue. For one thing, Facebook ads will remain available.

Who really stands to lose is Facebook, as having less effective targeting is only likely to lower the ad prices. Considering 97.9% of Facebook’s revenue comes from advertising, any reduction would be a significant blow.

Google—the only larger ad platform than Facebook—has announced its intentions to comply with Apple’s new terms. It comes as no surprise, as the internet giant has been researching alternatives to targeted ads for years. On top of that, Google is less reliant on ad revenue and can still use search data.

It remains to be seen if Google will implement similar measures across Android devices and Chrome. Although Google is in the advertising business, blocking ads could be an even bigger hit for Facebook—its main competitor in this regard.

Facebook Stubborness Backfires

Facebook did make one final pushback, forcing users to allow ad tracking on WhatsApp. If not, their accounts would progressively lose features until being shut down altogether. Global outrage did postpone this change, but the conglomerate is going through with the policy.

However, the decision turned out to be sort of a double-edged sword, with tens of millions of users switching to Signal and Telegram for more privacy-oriented messaging. Millions more, including privacy experts worldwide, slammed Facebook for giving an impossible choice to many people.

Despite this, the use of Apple’s new feature did exceed all expectations. Even conservative estimates by advertisers projected that around 40% of people would opt-in to be tracked. The latest figures, however, show an opt-in rate of 4% in the US and 11%-12% in the rest of the world. On top of that, 36% of users rate it as their favorite new feature.

It’s undoubtedly a huge step towards global privacy, albeit at Facebook’s expense. But how do you protect your identity if you’re not an Apple user?

Aside from switching to a Mac, there are plenty of measures. The most notable one is to use a VPN with a tracker-blocker like NordVPN to hide your identity online. End-to-end encrypted storage can also go a long way in keeping your most important data safe. You have plenty of options until privacy-oriented software becomes the norm.

Branko Krstic
Branko Krstic

Branko is a round-the-clock tech geek and loving it. His ideal vacation destination is the Akihabara District (or really any place he can take his computer). If there’s a server out there, count on him to find out what it’s made of… and tell you all about it.