Instagram is Latest Complaint Against iOS 14 Anti-Tracking Feature

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Adam Mosseri, CEO of Facebook-owned company Instagram, is the latest to hit back against Apple’s privacy feature that will limit invasive tracking in iOS 14 (via CNBC).

Update: Andrew Orr discussed this article on Security Friday.

iOS 14 Controversy

iOS 14 is adding an anti-tracking feature that requires apps to ask for permission in order to use Apple customers’ personal data to track them. After outcry from advertising companies like Facebook, Apple decided to delay the feature until early 2021. Now Facebook-owned Instagram is the latest to complain.

If the ecosystem changes in a way that advertisers can’t really measure their return on investment, that’s really going to be, yes, somewhat problematic for our business, but it’s going to be problematic for all the big ad platforms roughly equally, so I’m not that worried about it over the long run.

It’s going to be much much more problematic for all the small businesses. There are millions of them out there that rely on us to target customers and to reach those customers. Particularly during a pandemic when they’re hurting.

Here’s my translation. Ironically, Apple’s move won’t have much of an impact on billion-dollar companies like Facebook and Google, in spite of their pearl-clutching. Instead it will strengthen them as smaller business increasingly rely on them for their advertising needs.

The boil will be coming to a head in the near future. Advertising certainly enables much of the free web that people rely on. But we have to challenge ourselves and ask if the current way of doing things is the best way for non-companies, AKA people.

Targeted advertising is a pyramid scheme. I’ve heard plenty of people complain about “I’m seeing ads for something I already bought” implying that these advertising algorithms just need to get better at prediction. They never will; it’s the ultimate goal-post-shifting. These ads are being targeted towards people who are the most likely to buy the product in the first place.

I know people are getting sick of the subscription world that Apple is driving towards. I’ve been annoyed at times, too. But aside from a return to old-fashioned banner ads, I think it’s currently the best way to support your local businesses and creators. Pay for content.

4 thoughts on “Instagram is Latest Complaint Against iOS 14 Anti-Tracking Feature

  • The best predictive ad algorithm I’ve seen, by far, is on Pinterest.

    But let’s simplify the complaints on apple….

    WAaaaahhhhhhhh, I’m entitled to other people’s information, wahhhhhhhhhhh, give me….. wahhhhhhhh, apple wont let me rape peoples’ privacy….. wahhhhhh….

    Shut up, sit down.

  • Andrew:
    Instagram is the friendlier face of FB (think of them as Zuckerberg’s ‘better side’). Given that Instagram IS FB, this quote is particularly rich, ‘It’s going to be much much more problematic for all the small businesses. There are millions of them out there that rely on us to target customers and to reach those customers. Particularly during a pandemic when they’re hurting.’ I see this as less about small businesses strengthening the likes of Zuckerberg, in all of his guises, and more like the Wicked Witch of the West (‘Ahhhhhhhhhhh!!! You cursed brat! Look what you’ve done!! I’m melting, melting’). Not that yours truly would regret seeing Zuckerberg melt into a puddle of goo…might enjoy it, actually, but Apple are forcing a reckoning in big tech business models, specifically surveillance capitalism and the user data ownership and rights. 
    If and when Apple deploy industry grade, hardened anti-tracking in their operating systems, it will not only be the private sector, but some in governmental sectors who might be adversely affected and take countermeasures. Let’s stick with the private sector for now, and game this forward. 
    This is likely a secular trend that will play out across generations. My kids’ age group (Millennials) have a similar relationship of unconcern if not trust with the private sector regarding their data and privacy as their grandparents once held with the government sector. They will blithely permit the private sector to do with their data nothing of what they would tolerate were it the government. They identify with many of those running the private sector in a similar fashion that their grandparents once did with the government. The point being, while I might wish to bequeath through advocacy and new legislation a greater measure of personal data protection and ownership to my kids, it may require a major scandal of outright betrayal for them to realise that they have been duped, exploited and to insist on personal data ownership. 
    For now, surveillance capitalism will continue its Matrix-like relationship with their generation, unimpeded, in which they (ie their data and patronage) are the battery that runs the honeypots designed by FB, Google and their ilk; a relationship that Morpheus described as ‘slavery’. That might be harsh, but the power balance tilts towards non-consensual exploitation. 
    Apple need to bring this fight forward and into the open. Perhaps it will create just the existential crisis necessary to have a true public discussion and follow-on legislation that protect user rights in similar fashion as it does in medical practice and research, where informed consent is the standard. 

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