Facebook slams Apple’s anti-tracking features with full-page ads in major US newspapers

Facebook today ran full-page advertisements in several major newspapers in the United States, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, criticizing Apple’s plan to restrict some data gathering with the latest iOS and iPadOS 14 software updates.

It claims the changes in iOS 14 dealing with targeted advertising and ad tracking are bad for small businesses whereas in reality they’re bad for Facebook’s ad-driven business model. The ads carry the headline “We’re standing up to Apple for small businesses everywhere.”

Facebook claims that “While limiting how personalized ads can be used does impact larger companies like us, these changes will be devastating to small businesses.” The ads include Facebook’s internal research claiming that ads delivered without personalized targeting generate 60 percent fewer sales than those that do target consumers via ad tracking.

Bloomberg has the story:

Facebook previously told investors that Apple’s changes, scheduled to go live early next year, will lead to significant headwinds because most of its advertisers are small businesses. Apple has pushed back, accusing Facebook in November of showing a ‘disregard for user privacy.’

The Verge has an image of the ad:

Apple responded to the ad with the following statement to the press:

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.

Facebook’s argument for these changes is basically a continuation of its anti-Apple stance. In the past year or so, the social network has slammed Apple over its App Store fees while Apple and its CEO Tim Cook repeatedly singled out Facebook when publicly discussing user privacy and ad-driven business models.

Bloomberg continues:

The newspaper ads are the latest in what has become a vicious and public battle between two of the world’s most valuable companies. Facebook has argued repeatedly that Apple’s App Store fees and the upcoming iOS changes hurt small businesses trying to recover from the pandemic. It’s used those attacks to paint itself as a champion for such users, many of which rely on Facebook’s advertising services to drive sales. (That reliance can also put small businesses in a bind.)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg warned investors in October that the changes in iOS 14 would probably impact his company’s ad revenues. He told investors that “actions planned by platform companies like Apple could have a meaningful negative effect on small businesses and economic recovery in 2021 and beyond”. Moreover, Facebook slammed Apple yesterday as part of the Reuters report about Europe’s planned Digital Markets Act legislation that would require companies like Apple to level the playing field between first and third-party apps.

“We hope the DMA will also set boundaries for Apple,” a Facebook spokesman was quoted as saying. “Apple controls an entire ecosystem from device to app store and apps, and uses this power to harm developers and consumers, as well as large platforms like Facebook.”

In response to Facebook’s accusations that it has been making profits during the pandemic at the expense of small business owners, the Cupertino technology giant promised to stop taking its usual thirty percent cut for certain in-app purchases through the end of 2020. Last month, it extended that waiver through June 2021. Besides, the company recently cut its App Store commission to fifteen percent for small developers that generate up to $1 million per year.