What’s with this media war pitting Apple vs Facebook?
Have you ever felt as though your phone is stalking you? Visit a website for cookware and suddenly cookware ads are popping up everywhere—in your apps, on the web—everywhere. Welcome to the world of targeted ads, also known as personalized ads. And it is, in some senses, a creepy world to visit.
A small code on your phone makes targeted ads possible. In recent years, companies such as Facebook have used that code to track your every move on your phone. When Apple announced it would give users the option to restrict usage of this tracking code, Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg must have had visions of users gleefully hitting the ‘do not track me’ option and decimating the company’s advertising revenues. As a result, Facebook declared a media war on Apple and claims IOS 14.5 will wreak havoc on small businesses by making it harder for them to compete.
Follow the money
Let’s begin by putting reasons for the Apple vs Facebook media war into perspective. In 2020, Apple had the largest market capitalization of any company in the world. Not far behind was Facebook, who ranked number seven. That’s right, we’re talking about two of the largest companies on the planet. Apple’s market value is more than $2 trillion dollars, while Facebook is worth a mere $860 billion.
Apple’s revenues in 2020 were about $270 billion. Those revenues came from the sale of products and services. Facebook’s revenues were a mere $86 billion and largely came from advertising. Obviously, Facebook has the most to lose in this battle. In a mystery, we would call that motive.
What’s behind the story of Apple vs Facebook?
Over the years, Apple has shown a commitment to consumer privacy. To be fair, the company may also have a small profit motive if their decision can cause more apps to turn to subscriptions in the App Store. It’s a stretch, but it is possible.
Contrast Apple’s history against a company whose purpose has been to encourage people to share everything going on in their lives—and whose track record at keeping user data safe is weak. With Facebook, everyone can restrict what information of theirs they display on their timeline, but this free and willful sharing of personal interests isn’t where the problem lies.
Behind the scenes, Facebook sells your information to advertisers and data brokers. They do this so you see what Facebook calls personalized ads. I used to buy Facebook ads to promote my books. I would target Facebook users who liked certain authors or were in a specific demographic group based on age, sex, marital status, education, etc.
Seems like a good deal for everybody, right? Advertisers get to sell more stuff. You see ads personalized to your interests. And Facebook makes a boatload of money.
It all comes down to whose rights take precedence? Yours? Or those of advertisers?
Advertising dollars — the root of the problem
I’ve heard plenty of Facebook ads about how they’re looking out for small businesses and providing consumers with ads that meet their needs. But what those ads don’t mention is that while a small business might sell more of their products, all those advertising dollars are helping Facebook maintain its position as one of the world’s largest tech companies.
How to manage tracking on IOS
The bottom line is IOS 14.5 may affect Facebook’s advertising revenues. One of their big corporate goals is to convince you, their user, that you should allow them to continue to track and sell your information. Whetheryou want to see personalized ads is up toyou, and the following steps will help manage your preferences to either avoid or allow tracking in IOS 14.5.
- Go to Settings
- Scroll down and tap the Privacy link
- Adjust the activity tracking setting. When the option is set to on, you can choose which apps are allowed track your activity. If the option is off, apps will be instructed to not track your activity. (It is still possible for apps to ‘go rogue’ and track you, but my guess is they won’t last long in the App Store.)
While you’re here, why not check out last month’s tip, Avoiding scams in the age of Covid-19?