Facebook accuses Apple of using privacy as an excuse to abuse its dominant position


Posts: 744   +12
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The big picture: Apple said in a letter to privacy advocates that it's implementing 'app tracking transparency' in iOS 14 a little early to stop Facebook from collecting "as much data as possible" to monetize its users. The social giant immediately fired back, accusing the Cupertino giant of using its dominant position to "self-preference their own data collection."

Last month, a coalition of civil and human rights organizations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch sent a letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook expressing disappointment at the company's decision to delay the full implementation of iOS 14's anti-tracking features until early 2021.

Earlier this month, Apple backtracked on those plans and decided that it would implement privacy 'nutrition labels' as a mandatory feature that developers must bring to their iOS apps as early as next month. However, we don't know the full details on how that system will work, and what steps Apple is going to take in ensuring that developers provide accurate information about what user information is tracked by their apps.

Apple has now responded to the letter, and offered to clarify a few things about its plans to protect user privacy on iOS 14. Jane Horvath, who is the company's senior director of global privacy, explained that the App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature was delayed to allow developers ample time to prepare for the changes. Starting next year, developers will not only be required to ask permission from the user before tracking them across apps and websites, the user themselves can disable that tracking altogether.

Horvath says the feature was developed as a result of increasing concern about users being "being tracked without their consent and the bundling and reselling of data by advertising networks and data brokers." She also notes that ATT is not meant to prevent advertising, but just as a way of encouraging advertising that respects user privacy on the same level as Apple:

Advertising that respects privacy is not only possible, it was the standard until the growth of the Internet. Some companies that would prefer ATT is never implemented have said that this policy uniquely burdens small businesses by restricting advertising options, but in fact, the current data arms race primarily benefits big businesses with big data sets. Privacy-focused ad networks were the universal standard in advertising before the practice of unfettered data collection began over the last decade or so. Our hope is that increasing user demands for privacy and security, as well as changes like ATT, will make these privacy-forward advertising standards robust once more.

The letter maintains the same critical stance that Tim Cook has cultivated at Apple which holds that social media companies such as Facebook are inherently evil and must be regulated as promises of self-policing have not translated into real world actions.

By contrast, Facebook and others have a very different approach to targeting. Not only do they allow the grouping of users into smaller segments, they use detailed data about online browsing activity to target ads. Facebook executives have made clear their intent is to collect as much data as possible across both first and third party products to develop and monetize detailed profiles of their users, and this disregard for user privacy continues to expand to include more of their products.

Back in August, Facebook became the most vocal critic for the App Tracking Transparency feature and described it as a dramatic change that would render its Audience Network tools so ineffective that it may even reconsider offering it on iOS 14. Of course, the actual projected revenue drop is 40 percent, so it's not exactly the end of the world, but the social giant has been looking for ways to mitigate the impact of these changes.

Furthermore, Facebook has now responded to Apple's statements with a long statement of its own where it accuses the latter for trying to distract users from privacy issues that have been revealed in the last few years, such as the IDFA used on iOS devices, and the possible data harvesting methods used on macOS spotted by security researcher Jeffrey Paul.

The latter issue is particularly important, as it forced Apple to clarify how its Gatekeeper anti-malware service works, especially since it acted as a single point of failure last week for people who were trying to launch third party apps while Apple servers were being hammered with macOS Big Sur deployments. As spotted by 9to5Mac, the Cupertino giant quickly updated the support documentation to explain that Gatekeeper doesn't track users and will soon be updated to use an encrypted protocol for data transmissions and to allow users to opt out of these security protections.

Facebook alleges Apple is just brushing off these revelations and that it systematically weaponizes user privacy and market position whenever it's convenient in order to boost its own services, which may soon include a search engine.

They 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.

Whichever the case may be, Apple may have chosen a fight with Facebook at the wrong time. The iPhone maker has often touted its attention to detail as well as the privacy and security of its users as major selling points, but that's becoming somewhat hard to believe. As for Facebook, it looks like it's simply upset that will soon have a harder time targeting a coveted demographic for advertising purposes.

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Posts: 2,289   +2,497
TechSpot Elite
Neither are wrong, but neither are in the right.
That's what I was thinking.
Apple is 100% putting itself in a position to get user data more easily than it's competitors. Just like they take advantages in the App Store. Just like big companies like to do in general (eg. Amazon and copying their competition).

And Facebook is totally tracking anything and everything they can to make a profit. They don't sell their main service, but offer it for "free" (we are the "product" to them). They could take the hit, but why not put pressure on Apple so it's easier on them? They're big enough.


Posts: 1,334   +1,216
Facebook...described it as a dramatic change that would render its Audience Network tools so ineffective that it may even reconsider offering it on iOS 14. Of course, the actual projected revenue drop is 40 percent, so it's not exactly the end of the world
Given that 40% is more than Facebook's net margin, and even its operating margin, it very well indeed may be "the end of the world" ... especially if other platforms make the same changes as Apple. A 40% across-the-board revenue drop with no compensating cost reductions would put them out of business. I wouldn't shed a tear, that's for sure.

I agree with Apple
And I agree with QuantumPhysics? God must have killed a kitten last night.


Posts: 1,454   +1,047
Google aren’t protecting their users data because they sell it to the highest bidder and this makes up the vast majority of their income. Apple sell your data too but it makes up a tiny fraction of their income. It’s more in their interest to protect their users data than it is to sell it.

As for Facebook. They can go **** themselves as far as I’m concerned. This is only the beginning of a lot of pain for Facebook in the coming years. They are acting as if they are entitled to the public’s data.


Posts: 30   +32
Frankly ..... I'd like to see both "suspended" from operations or even existence for 2 years ..... and let's see which one we miss most .... if at all .....

In a battle of trust I trust FB less. I have no FB account but they track me regardless, across the web and through my naive interpersonal relationships. Apple have already stood up against intrusion by alphabet soup agencies with their encryption and towhich I furthermore already paid them their premium.

Are they trustworthy? No. A moneygrubbing corp just like the rest, but at least they're seemingly less worse than FB.


Posts: 295   +400
Like seeing a comment section battle about Adolf vs Josef. Who's the best at being the worst?
They should both be disbanded for abusing their market position.


Posts: 295   +400
Except that Apple doesn't have a dominant market position to abuse. Android, perhaps, but not Apple.
Tell that to Americans.
Apple doesn't have a dominant market position when Apple tells its influences to spam that lie. At all other times, Apple is owning everything in tech.

RDF is one of the main issues with these crime cartels. They sell lies and unfortunately, a lot of people believe them.


Posts: 35   +16
Except that Apple doesn't have a dominant market position to abuse. Android, perhaps, but not Apple.

Unless you wish to control your OWN data that you've had the misfortune of saving on Apple devices. Or if you want to actually REPAIR one of those devices. Then we can talk about abusing their position.


Posts: 1,334   +1,216
Unless you wish to control your OWN data that you've had the misfortune of saving on Apple devices.
No one wakes up one morning to find their Android magically transformed into an iPhone. Using Apple products is a choice. If you don't like their rules, don't use their products. Simple.


Posts: 29   +29
Simple. Don't use Facebook, ask/make sure your social circle stays away from it & is aware of any circumferential channels for going round, still collecting and personalising data, I.e. web plugins. uBlock Origin and uMatrix (Firefox) make wonders!, they are by the way available for Chrome & Opera too.

Second. Stop trusting Apple's superficial "it just works" fanboy maxima but learn how to do things with your own hands. Go custom ROM or Android and use USB-debugging together with simple permissions-control applications such as AppOps. Rewrite every (app's) single permission starting with Location (including Precise Location), Access to WiFi, Microphone, Camera, Contacts, Phone. Set to "Deny" or "Send Empty Data". Block background data use by all and every app. Block "auto wake-up" per app. Block "Rewrite System Settings" per app. Rewrite "phone ID and status" permission to Deny.

Use VPN (in the case of in-phone internet access blocking per app). NoRootFirewall or any similar works wonders. Block data access for anything that you don't need permanently, especially Shazam, SoundHound and others. These listen to you at all times and the data is at regular intervals synced at servers of who knows what location or jurisdiction. If you need them, unblock them until they tell you the name of the song and block again.

Block your chosen Keyboard's access to Internet, disable analytics/typing data storage, and clear typing data regularly. Otherwise everything you type will get synced on the developer's servers and used against you (profiling, data collection, advertising...). Block phone manufacturer's crapware apps from accessing Internet. Disable Google or iCloud (contacts or any other data) sync. Instead, back up to local storage or external storage device (PC or else)! Sms and Call apps do not need access to Internet by themselves or to work so disable it!

Very important: go through and rewrite permissions for Instagram, Facebook (if you still need to use it) and TikTok. Use Signal instead of Facebook's whatsapp, viber, etc. Whatsapp is known to collaborate with authorities and anything said, attached or shared is kept on their servers forever so will be used against you at a later stage (including personalised data). Last but not least - it is part of Facebook's profiling, as Instagram is, so the less they have to pile up to the existing data, the better for you.

Last but not least, disable JavaScript by default in the browser you are using. Most websites will work anyway and since most of it happens at JavaScript level, you will be even able to read articles that are supposed to be otherwise blocked/subscription-based. There are simple extensions to allow you to do this (JS on-off) and you can enable it when necessary.

Privacy is a personal war against those who think you are just an object to control (not a human being, an object). Every fight for your rights is a continuous learning step, it depends on you and only you.

Cubi Dorf

Posts: 320   +208
I think user should have right to know and approve what data is taken from device they are own. It is good Apple want to help provide.

I also think feature like Gatekeeper need to be user option and not force on user, preferably per app. It was terrible on big sur download day when server was having problem. I did not downloading big sur until later days, but even on catalina I could not opening apps because of gatekeeper. total unacceptable. I didn't know until 2 day later what was happen. I thought my computer was about to dead and started working troubleshooting. I didn't realizing apple server used to approving every 3rd party app to open. not install. to open. every time user opening! total unacceptable Apple! This need to be user choice. I hearing Apple may be change this. This need to be a priority!

My computer security and privacy should be my responsibility, but I need tools to allowing it but not forced.