In brief: Facebook sees Apple's App Tracking Transparency feature as a weapon pointed at its apps, so it's currently considering the idea of a lawsuit against the Cupertino company. But with so many regulators looking closely at the social giant for antitrust issues, that may not be the best idea.
By now, it's no longer a secret that Apple's App Tracking Transparency feature in iOS 14 has prompted Facebook to essentially declare war on the Cupertino giant. To that end, the social network has been using everything from executive statements to newspaper ads and even shoving policy changes in users' faces to make Apple look like the bad guy and discredit and undermine its effort to increase transparency for services that depend on ad tracking for revenue.
Facebook closed out 2020 in surprisingly good financial standing, despite navigating what could only be described as a difficult period for a company that makes most of its revenue from advertising. However, the social media firm did warn investors that it faces "significant uncertainty" this year, which is why the company is scrambling to prevent its main stream of revenue from drying up at a time when online commerce is booming and shifts in consumer demand are making advertising more profitable.
According to a report from The Information, Facebook is ready to go to court to protect its interests. It is said to be planning to argue that Apple is using privacy as an excuse to abuse its dominant position. Specifically, the company will argue that Apple routinely imposes App Store rules on other developers while not following them when it comes to its own services.
In the case of iOS 14's App Tracking Transparency feature, which is designed to let users opt-out of being tracked across apps, Facebook could focus on proving that it gives Apple a competitive advantage in areas like messaging, shopping, and gaming -- especially as Apple also requires developers to use its own in-app payment service.
Another point of attack is said to be Apple's insistence on not allowing third-party alternatives to iMessage to be set as the default messaging app on iPhone and iPad. Facebook would argue that this in turn locks consumers into Apple's ecosystem, which it views as anti-competitive behavior.
It's not clear at this point how determined Facebook is on filing the lawsuit, but given how important targeted advertising is for the company's bottom line, it wouldn't surprise anyone if it does happen. It's said that Facebook executives are facing some "internal resistance" from employees over the possibility of this being a weak case for a company that is the subject of at two antitrust lawsuits from the FTC as well as 40 state attorneys general. Even more so in the context of a new lawsuit that alleges Facebook and Google made a deal to help one another against antirust action.