Facebook has responded in a very public manner against Apple and its privacy clampdown on apps hosted on its App Store.

Earlier this week Apple had followed through on its promise to implement new privacy rules, with apps on its App Store now required to display a summary of the app’s privacy practices.

Essentially, this ‘nutrition label’ will explain to the user just what the app will do with their personal data, in a move that advertisers are not overly keen on. And now Facebook has also waded into the issue.

Data transparency

It should be noted that this move has been a long time coming.

Apple had first revealed at its annual World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June, that with iOS 14, app developers would need to provide more information about the data they collect on users, with Apple displaying a summary of how apps use data such as location or tracking information.

Essentially, apps would be required to show a pop-up label before they enable a form of tracking commonly needed to show personalised ads. The labels will detail financial and location information, to browsing and purchase history.

Apple said that the new feature was aimed at giving users greater transparency over how their information is being used.

But Apple’s move did not go down well with advertisers.

In July a group of European digital advertising associations criticised Apple for not adhering to an ad-industry system for seeking user consent under European privacy rules.

Developers were previously required to have a privacy policy and link it to their App Store product page, but the new labels will now package this privacy policy into a more visual format. The label will be displayed near reviews and details about in-app purchases.

And Facebook (which depends on advertising for a large portion of its revenues) is definitely not a fan.

In August Facebook warned that while Apple’s new privacy rules would spare its own apps, including WhatsApp and Instagram, it would impact smaller developers.

Then in September Apple confirmed it would delay the implementation of new privacy controls until early 2021, after the pushback from both Facebook and advertising associations. The changes had been due to be implemented in September.

In November Apple sent a questionnaire to developers inquiring about its data collection practices. Developers who haven’t yet completed it will not be able to update their existing apps until they do so.

And Apple this week began displaying a summary of an app’s privacy practices before a user downloads it from the App Store.

Apple also began deploying these data labels on Monday, and more labels will be added to more apps in the weeks ahead.

Devastating move?

Facebook responded with full page adverts in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal, arguing the changes will be “devastating to small businesses” that rely on its ad network to generate sales.

The newspaper ads direct small businesses to Facebook’s “speak up for small business” site, where a series of business owners speak out about Apple’s changes.

“Small businesses deserve to be heard,” Facebook writes. “We hear your concerns, and we stand with you.”

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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