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In response to Apple’s recent iOS 14 privacy updates, Facebook and Instagram has been forced to become a little more transparent with what it wants your data for. As Apple users now have an opt-in requirement for how data is collected within apps it appears Facebook’s answer is to inform you on just why they need it with a new pop-up notification within the iOS itself. Some might call it pleading or even blackmailing as the message itself states that your data collection can “help keep Facebook and Instagram free of charge.” A similar campaign has rolled out on Instagram’s iOS app which is also part of Facebook’s wider social platform portfolio.

Kim Lyon reported on the matter at The Verge after spotting a tweet from Ashkan Soltani alerting everyone to the new pop-ups. She also noted that a Facebook spokesperson had previously been in touch regarding the update which was presented in a blogpost. The company refers to the notices as “educational screens,” and said they provided “more details about how we use data for personalized ads,” as to the blog post by Dan Levy, Facebook’s vice president for ads and business products.

“This version of iOS requires us to ask for permission to track some data from these devices to improve your ads. Learn how we limit the use of this information if you don’t turn on this device setting,” the screen reads. “We use information about your activity received from other apps and websites to: show you ads that are more personalized, help keep Facebook free of charge [and] support businesses that rely on ads to reach their customers.”

The latest iOS 14 updates require expressed consent given from the device owner to the developer before they can allow an Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) to be shared and collected. This doesn’t stop the developers from being able to target users directly with advertising. It specifically stops the share of information across apps and tracking what you do from one to the other from being shared with other companies. They can still get a lot of information if you opt-out without tracking between apps.

The new privacy rules also prevent developers from being able to get around the opt-in. One way they could attempt that would be to change the IDFA tracking to email address tracking, but this would now place them in direct violation. Of course, Apple will have to adhere to its own rules with its proprietary apps as well.

Facebook has publicly argued against new privacy changes for some time now. Their main focus of contempt being that small business could experience the brunt of the fallout. Many starter campaigns rely on Facebook advertising to develop and spread. Apple has been working hard to encourage new business models via apps they have in development. These apps would require a subscription instead of relying on advertising. Facebook deems the potential profits that Apple could make the sole reason behind their new privacy updates in the first place. 

Facebook once ran with the “free and always will be.” tagline which was removed without too many people noticing back in 2019. So the “keep Facebook/Instagram free” campaign may seem out of character. However, when Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress in 2018 he wasn’t quite as transparent. He stated that “There will always be a version of Facebook that is free,” but this doesn’t rule out a potential premium model in the future.

During Facebook’s January earnings call, the company admitted that Apple was one of his company’s biggest rivals and openly called them out on their tactics. “Apple has every incentive to use their dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps and other apps work, which they regularly do to preference their own,” Zuckerberg said. “This impacts the growth of millions of businesses around the world, including with the upcoming iOS 14 changes.”

Apple has had requests for comments but is yet to respond publicly on the matter.

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