Apple's push to require app developers to request permission before they're able to track you across the internet is here. On Monday, the company released iOS 14.5, the update that includes what Apple has positioned as an effort to protect users' data.
Over the past few months, Facebook has mounted a full-court press in an attempt to sway public opinion about the change. It has accused Apple of harming small businesses, and even threatening the open internet. At one point, Facebook's criticism got to the point that even the company's employees thought it went too far.
On Monday, Apple finally released iOS 14.5, and, I checked, Facebook still opens on my iPhone. The world didn't come to an end for digital advertisers, small businesses, or anyone else. In fact, no one really knows how much of a difference the change will make to anyone.
I suppose we'll find out soon. AppsFlyer, an ad attribution measurement firm, says that the average opt-in rate in its testing is around 26 percent. That means that almost three-quarters of users are likely to opt out of allowing Facebook and other apps to track their activity.
Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, told The Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern that the company's goal is to "give users a choice." Those four words are at the core of the problem with the position Facebook has taken since Apple announced the changes last year at its developer conference.
"These devices are so intimately a part of our lives and contain so much of what we're thinking and where we've been and who we've been with that users deserve and need control of that information," said Federighi. "It wasn't surprising to us to hear that some people were going to push back on this, but at the same time, we were completely confident that it's the right thing."
That's an important distinction. Apple thinks that giving users a choice over how their data is used is "the right thing."
Apple thinks you should have a choice because that's the best thing for users. Facebook, on the other hand, is worried that if you have a choice, you'll choose not to let it track you, which would be bad for Facebook. The social media giant literally doesn't want you to have a choice because it's more concerned about what's good for Facebook than what's good for users.
Federighi's comments come after a piece from The New York Times this week that details how the relationship between the companies' CEOs, Mark Zuckerberg and Tim Cook, became so sour. Cook reportedly told Zuckerberg in 2019 that the only way for Facebook to contain the fallout from a series of privacy concerns was to "delete any information that it had collected about people outside of its core apps."
Clearly, Facebook wasn't interested then in letting go of the information that is the lifeblood of its business model, and the same thing is true now. Every user that opts out of tracking is a user whose data Facebook is no longer able to collect in order to prove the value of its personalized ads.
Even if you believe that personalized advertising is good for small businesses, it has to concern you that Facebook's primary motivation has always been to do what's best for Facebook, even if that's bad for its users. Every business makes decisions based on what is best for the bottom line and stakeholders, but Facebook has shown that it's willing to do it even if it's problematic for users.
Facebook argues that personalized ads are better for those users. Except, if that were true, Facebook would have nothing to worry about. If people genuinely felt that exchanging their personal information for ads about the things they look at online was a good deal, they wouldn't opt out.
That, however, isn't what people think. People think targeted ads are creepy. They dream up conspiracies about how Facebook must be listening to their conversations. That should be enough to convince even the most die-hard true believer that Facebook has a problem.