Tim Cook slams Facebook small business campaign

Business

Apple CEO Tim Cook slammed Facebook in a tweet after the social media platform said Apple’s new feature allowing users to deny permission for apps to use their personal data would hurt small businesses.

Facebook has criticized Apple’s new rules since the summer, when changes were first announced, and launched an ad campaign Friday saying it is “standing up to Apple for small businesses everywhere” by pushing back against the updates.

Cook on Thursday tweeted an image of Apple’s new data permission request feature, which asks users, “Allow Facebook to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites?”

“We believe users should have the choice over the data that is being collected about them and how it’s used,” Cook said. “Facebook can continue to track users across apps and websites as before, App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 will just require that they ask for your permission first.”

Apple announced a number of new, transparency-driven changes to its App Store policies for iOS 14 in June, including permission requests for user data that are expected to roll out in 2021 after the tech giant delayed the update “to give developers time to make necessary changes,” according to a September blog post.

On Monday, Apple launched a new privacy information section on the App Store that details what information certain apps want to collect from users and how companies like Facebook will use that data.

“We believe that this is a simple matter of standing up for our users,” Apple said in a statement. “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 company added that its new app permission request feature “does not require Facebook to change its approach to tracking users and creating targeted advertising, it simply requires they give users a choice.”

Videos posted to Twitter of users scrolling through Facebook’s privacy information section show a lengthy list of the website’s data-collection practices.

Adam Mosseri, head of Facebook-owned Instagram, defended the use of personal data in a Wednesday tweet, saying it helps small businesses create personalized ads.

Such ads “are an important tool for small businesses to identify and connect with their customers in a way that only big budgets allowed before. This is particularly important right now, given all the challenge[s] that small businesses face,” he wrote.

Dan Levy, Facebook vice president of ads and business products, detailed the social media giant’s objections to Apple’s update in a Wednesday blog post, invoking small businesses that Facebook says will suffer financial setbacks because of the update.

Levy said the iOS 14 transparency update “will force businesses to turn to subscriptions and other in-app payments for revenue.”

“These changes will directly affect their ability to use their advertising budgets efficiently and effectively. Our studies show, without personalized ads powered by their own data, small businesses could see a cut of over 60% of website sales from ads,” Levy wrote.

It’s not the first time Facebook has been critical of App Store policies.

The Facebook Gaming app — which allows players to livestream and features games like Grand Theft Auto, Minecraft and Fortnite — officially launched in August but without games due to Apple’s strict policies, Facebook said at the time.

“We had to remove gameplay functionality entirely in order to get Apple’s approval on the standalone Facebook Gaming app – meaning iOS users have an inferior experience to those using Android,” Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg wrote.

Facebook launched its gaming app in April on Google Play. The social media company said it planned to launch the app on iOS devices at the same time but Apple rejected the app six times.

Apple cited its App Store guidelines, which state that an app can run games as long as playing games is not the “main purpose” of the app, as the reason behind its rejections. Facebook argues that playing games is not the main purpose of its app, and 95% of Android users use the app for watching livestreams.