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Saturday, May 15, 2021

Facebook and Instagram Asks for Tracking Permission on iOS 14.5 Update to Prevent “Additional” Charges

Facebook is continuing to push back against Apple’s iOS 14 privacy updates, telling app users that the information it collections from other apps and websites can “help keep Facebook free of charge.” A similar message was also seen on Instagram’s iOS app. 

The company refers to the messages as “educational screens,” and say they provided “more details about how we use data for personalized ads,” according to a blog post by Dan Levy, Facebook’s Vice President for ads and business products. 

“This version of iOS requires us to ask for permission to track some data from this devices to improve your ads. Learn how we limit the use of this information if you don’t turn on this device setting,” the message reads. “We use this information about your activity received from other apps and websites to: show you ads that are more personalized, to help keep Facebook free of charge [and] support businesses that rely on ads to reach their customers.” 

The new opt-in requirements of iOS 14, including iOS 14.5, require developers to get consent from device owners to allow their Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) to be shared and collected across apps. Under Apple’s new privacy policy, app developers are still allowed to use other information a user provides for targeted advertising, even if the user opts out of letting the app track them, but that information cannot be shared with another company for ad tracking purposes. 

If developers try to get circumvent the opt-in requirement, or try to replace the IDFA with another piece of identifying information like an email address, the app will be in violation of the opt-in requirement. These rules also apply to Apple’s own apps. 

Facebook has continually criticized Apple’s iOS 14 privacy updates, arguing that the privacy changes could hurt the small businesses relying on Facebook’s ad network to reach customers. In statements to the press and in newspaper ads, Facebook has said Apple is encouraging new business models for apps so they could rely less on advertising and more on subscriptions, which Apple could potentially profit from. 

However, this new “help keep Facebook/Instagram free” message conflicts with Facebook’s long-standing motto that the platform is “free and always will be.” Facebook removed the long-standing slogan from their website in 2019. Additionally, in 2018, Mark Zuckerberg didn’t rule out a paid version of Facebook when he testified before Congress. “There will always be a version of Facebook that is free,” he said.

Zuckerberg criticized Apple during Facebook’s January earnings call, while also referring to Apple as one of his company’s biggest competitors. “Apple has every incentive to use their dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps and other apps work, which they regularly do to preference their own,” Zuckerberg said. “This impacts the growth of millions of businesses around the world, including with the upcoming iOS 14 changes.” 

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