Apple Responds to Facebook’s Anti-Tracking Criticism, Says Users Deserve Control and Transparency

Apple has responded to Facebook’s criticism over an upcoming iOS 14 privacy measure — specifically a change that will require users to grant permission for their activity to be tracked for personalized advertising purposes starting early next year.

ios 14 tracking permission prompt
In a statement provided to MacRumors, Apple said “we believe that this is a simple matter of standing up for our users,” adding that “users should know when their data is being collected and shared across other apps and websites — and they should have the choice to allow that or not.” The options to allow or deny the tracking will be presented in the form of a prompt that appears as necessary when users open apps.

Apple’s full statement:

We believe that this is a simple matter of standing up for our users. Users should know when their data is being collected and shared across other apps and websites — and they should have the choice to allow that or not. App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 does not require Facebook to change its approach to tracking users and creating targeted advertising, it simply requires they give users a choice.

As part of its response to Facebook, Apple emphasized that it welcomes in-app advertising and is not prohibiting tracking, but simply requiring apps to obtain explicit user consent in order to track users for personalized advertising purposes, providing users with more control and transparency. Apple said tracking can be invasive, and as a result, it believes users have the right to make choices about the permissions they grant to apps.

Apple also highlighted the fact that developers like Facebook will be able to edit a section of the text that appears in the prompt to explain why users should allow tracking, and it provided a screenshot to visualize this.

facebook ios 14 tracking prompt
In the Settings app, users can view which apps have requested permission to track for advertising purposes, and make changes as they see fit. Apple said that if it becomes aware of an app that violates its App Store Review Guidelines in relation to this change, the developer must address the issue or the app will be removed from the App Store.

Apple said that this change has been on its roadmap for years, and that it will apply equally to all developers, including Apple.

Last, Apple noted that it is expanding its privacy-preserving SKAdNetwork ad attribution API, allowing third-party ad networks serving ads across a wide variety of apps to provide ad attribution to developers without knowing the identity of the user. Apple says SKAdNetwork is free to use and that it does not monetize the API.

Facebook’s Criticism

Earlier today, in a blog post and a full-page ad published in three major newspapers, Facebook claimed that Apple’s tracking change will have a “harmful impact on many small businesses that are struggling to stay afloat.”

“We disagree with Apple’s approach and solution, yet we have no choice but to show Apple’s prompt,” said Facebook. “If we don’t, they will block Facebook from the App Store, which would only further harm the people and businesses that rely on our services. We cannot take this risk on behalf of the millions of businesses who use our platform to grow.”

Facebook said Apple’s anti-tracking change is “about profit, not privacy,” claiming that small businesses will be forced to turn to subscriptions and other in-app payments for revenue, in turn benefitting Apple’s bottom line. Facebook also accused Apple of setting a double standard, claiming that the iPhone maker’s own personalized ad platform is not subject to the upcoming iOS 14 policy, a claim that Apple has now denied.

“We believe Apple is behaving anti-competitively by using their control of the App Store to benefit their bottom line at the expense of app developers and small businesses,” said Facebook. The company said it would continue to “explore ways to address this concern,” including supporting Epic Games in its antitrust lawsuit against Apple.

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