New Facebook Message Warns You of iOS 14 Ad Opt-In

In response to an iOS 14 feature that makes developers ask user consent to use their data, Facebook wants to remind people just how beleaguered it really is.

In the post, Facebook says that if users accept the prompts for Facebook and Instagram, the ads you see on those apps won’t change. “If you decline, you will still see ads, but they will be less relevant to you.” The tech giant notes that Apple has said that providing education about its new privacy changes is allowed.

To me, the most offensive part about this isn’t Facebook pretending to care about “businesses other than itself that rely on ads to reach products customers.” It’s how it says “This won’t give us access to new types of information.”

Will Apple’s Crackdown on Data Tracking Hurt Small Businesses?

Ben Thompson publishes good analysis on Stratechery, but I don’t agree with his latest piece. It’s about Apple’s privacy campaign and the new iOS 14 privacy “nutrition labels.” If I understand them correctly, he seems to have two main points: We should feel bad for small businesses because they won’t be able to collect our data in the same capacity as before, and that Apple’s attempts are futile because the internet is a giant shopping mall and “personal data wants to be free.” My summary is an oversimplification but I believe we should be combining Apple’s privacy with regulation like GDPR. In my opinion you can still have ads that don’t invade your privacy.

While transparency for customers is definitely a good thing, Apple’s simultaneous appeals to analog analogies and simplistic presentation of privacy trade-offs risks a similar path when it comes to the GDP of the Internet and to what extent power is disbursed versus centralized.

Facebook Responds to Apple’s Criticism of Data Monetization

On Thursday, Apple defended its iOS 14 anti-tracking feature in a letter to privacy groups like the EFF, criticizing data collection practices like those used by Facebook. Naturally, Facebook responded.

[Apple] are using their dominant market position to self-preference their own data collection while making it nearly impossible for their competitors to use the same data. They claim it’s about privacy, but it’s about profit.

Fortunately, of course it’s possible to be private and profitable simultaneously. Paid apps and services hopefully incentivize developers to monetize their talent, not our attention through tracking and ads.

When Will The Targeted Advertising Bubble Burst?

A large part of the web is free because of targeted advertising, but former Google employee Tim Hwang argues that it doesn’t even work.

He notes that while “some digital and social media messaging is quite effective,” it’s common for platforms and media agencies to triple (at least) its apparent value by wrongly crediting digital ads for purchases that consumers would have made anyway. Aral calls this “the most widely used shell game in business today.”

Or, as Hwang puts it: “The whole edifice of online advertising is, in short, bunk.”

Apple Shares New Privacy Video About Over-Sharing

Apple uploaded a funny privacy ad for the iPhone on Thursday. With the song “Diamonds Cutting Diamonds” by Lydia Ainsworth in the background, the commercial follows various people as they share private information to strangers, like their credit card number, “I browsed eight sites for divorce attorneys today,” and  “I hate Lee, puke emoji” (As he sits right behind her). Apple includes a link to its privacy page in the video description.

News Publishers Consider Abandoning iOS Over Privacy Feature

Over at The Verge, Casey Newton wrote about the increasingly heated battle between Apple and advertisers. There are a couple of tidbits I wanted to comment on.

If you believe that free, ad-supported news is beneficial to a healthy democracy, it’s worth noting that all these pro-privacy changes come at a cost.

Free is great, free news is greater, and transparency is greatest. I believe discussing a healthy democracy involves advocating for open source software, which would necessitate a stance against Apple. So I don’t disagree, and as Mr. Newton notes, we need strong privacy laws as well. He also shares an interesting link to Vox, in which some news publishers are considering abandoning iOS if they can’t monetize their users.

Twitter Could be Fined up to $250 Million Over Privacy Violations

Since October 2019 the FTC has been investigating Twitter over its use of personal data for targeted ads. Twitter has set aside US$150 million for the minimum fine amount but it could possibly reach up to US$250 million.

If it’s preparing for an unfavorable outcome, that’s probably because it’s not the first tech company that’s had to face the same allegations from the FTC. Facebook previously had to pay $5 billion for several privacy missteps, including the use of people’s phone numbers, provided for security purposes, for its ad business.

iOS 14 Features Could Hurt Facebook Ad Targeting

iOS 14 features like “ask to track” could hurt Facebook’s ad targeting business, said Chief Financial Officer David Wehner.

With the update to its mobile devices, Apple will ask users if they want to let app developers track their activity across other apps and websites […] The change is expected to start impacting Facebook’s advertising in the third quarter but it will have a more pronounced effect in the fourth quarter, Wehner said.

I’m sure Facebook will find other ways to track people.

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