The Cupertino giant has announced a new privacy feature, due to arrive next spring. It should allow users to make their own data choices. What triggers the fury of Facebook? Explanations are given here.
Apple's plans to protect the privacy of its users have been the subject of legal monitoring for months by Facebook. The Information site reveals that Facebook has been preparing for months a case to initiate proceedings against Apple on this point.
Facebook's wrath is over alleged anti-competitive practices on Apple's part. The social media giant accuses Apple of "abusing its power in the smartphone market to force app developers to follow App Store rules that Apple's own apps don't have to follow."
The latest update to Apple's iOS mobile operating system, scheduled for spring, will require app publishers to be transparent about the collection and use of users' personal information. This eagerly awaited "application tracking transparency" tool allows users to decide whether they agree to their data being collected by different applications and websites.
Available as part of a new version of iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and tvOS 14, this feature will require authorization from app users before other company apps or websites collect, store and analyze their data for advertising purposes. When users ask apps not to collect their data, publishers of those apps will also need to refrain from sharing information with data brokers. That is enough to undermine Facebook's business model.
Because data brokers are big clients of Mark Zuckerberg's business They collect this information or buy it from other businesses, including social media platforms like Facebook, and aggregate thousands of data to create consumer profiles that can be used for targeted advertising. A new privacy report released by Apple mentions the existence of a broker that currently collects data on 700 million consumers worldwide and establishes profiles including up to 5,000 characteristics.
Data brokers in the hard, Facebook deprived of its customers
Data brokers are a link in the network of apps, ad technology companies, social media companies, websites that are interested in collecting vast amounts of information about users across different platforms. Apple says that an average of a mobile app has six trackers, which in most cases allow third parties to collect and link data from many different sources.
So even when generating data using a single application, user profiles end up being updated in several different databases around the world, often without their knowledge. That's why a quick web search for swimming pool hours can result in a week of web surfing filled with very oppressive swimwear ads.
In future versions of Apple's operating system, users will be able to choose to allow apps to collect the data they generate for other apps and websites. In their device settings, users will be able to see which apps have requested permission to track and change data.
Apple has been warning about this change for months
If users choose "Ask app not to track", the app developer will not have access to the device's advertising identifier, which is often used to collect advertising data; and apps that continue to track users who have chosen not to participate in their program run the risk of being completely kicked out of the App Store. Apple has also confirmed that users will not be required to allow tracking in order to use the full capabilities of the app.
The Cupertino giant presented the application tracking transparency tool at the Apple Developer Conference last June, with a view to the release of this feature at the same time as the launch of iOS 14, last October. The company ultimately decided to delay the tool in order to give developers more time to make the necessary changes.
Digital rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, wrote to Apple CEO Tim Cook at the time to express their “disappointment” that the anti-tracking feature was pushed back. According to the letter, the delay meant that privacy protection would not be available during the 2020 US presidential election, increasing the risk of personalized political ads.
The complement of the "confidentiality nutritional label"
Privacy experts are now applauding the upcoming release of the Application Tracker Transparency Tool. Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, says “Apple's new data protection tools give people more control over their personal information. Data brokers and online advertisers will now have to act more responsibly when dealing with consumers who use third-party apps on Apple devices. ”
This new tool will complement a feature already launched in iOS 14 and iPad 14, which Apple calls a "nutritional privacy label" - an easy-to-view summary of the data that a given application collects, as well as information on how the information is collected is used by developers. Developers, who submit a new app, or an update to the Apple App Store, must now detail their privacy practices and how they handle data.
Why is Apple's maneuver upsetting the data ecosystem?
Because application developers, from social networks to video games, including e-commerce, entertainment or office automation, have no other choice but to go through the App Store, the download platform for iOS, to reach the hundreds of millions of consumers with iPhones and iPads.
“Apple has every interest in using its position as a dominant platform to interfere with the way our apps and other apps work. And they do it regularly, prioritizing theirs to the detriment of the growth of millions of companies around the world, “said Mark Zuckerberg, the head of the Californian group, during the presentation to analysts of the company's latest quarterly results. . “The changes to iOS 14 mean that many SMBs will no longer be able to target their customers with personalized ads. Apple can say it's doing this to help people, but it's clearly in its best interests, ”he continues.
Tim Cook, the boss of Apple, attacked him without naming Facebook, condemning "conspiracy theories fueled by algorithms." “We can no longer turn a blind eye to the theory that all online interactions are good, and the longer they last the better,” he says. “If a company is founded on its ability to deceive users, on the exploitation of data, on non-choices, it does not deserve our praise. She deserves our contempt”.
The business model of large digital platforms like Facebook and Google is based on free services and very fine-grained ad targeting on a very large scale. Apple, their neighbor in Silicon Valley, derives its revenue from sales of electronic devices and, increasingly, online subscription services.
Several companies on this point criticize Apple for behaving like a real gatekeeper, taking too large commissions, according to them, on the sale of products from third-party publishers made in the Apple ecosystem a commission that may account for 30% of sales, but in recent months the situation has eased with the rise of string services. Epic Games, publisher of the popular video game Furknight, seeks to bypass the iOS payment system in 2020. Apple has banned the app from its devices until the summer of 2021. A lawsuit is ongoing.
Apple regularly emphasizes its concern to protect data confidentiality, and a level of a commission equivalent to that of other platforms, including that of Google, necessary to ensure the security of transactions.
Fury at Facebook, which is the defender ... of small businesses
Dan Levy, Facebook vice president of ads and business products, says entrepreneurs rely on advertising to make money, and small businesses could end up with more than 60% reduction in site sales web without personalized advertising.
Without ads, developers may also not be able to provide free apps and will have to look to subscription models. He adds that this will ultimately increase Apple's profits.
Apple, for its part, continues to present itself as a leader in the privacy protection sector and offers dozens of technologies integrated into its products, such as blocking cookies or preventing smart tracking in Safari, iOS and macOS.