Facebook sponsored research paper lambasts Apple's iOS 14.5 privacy

in iOS edited June 2021
An academic study backed by Facebook, calls Apple's iOS 14 App Tracking Transparency feature "pernicious," and claims it is using privacy as a guise for its anti-competitive measures.

Facebook will have to convince users to disable App Tracking Transparency
Facebook will have to convince users to disable App Tracking Transparency

"Harming Competition and Consumers Under the Guise of Protecting Privacy," is a new academic research paper funded by Facebook. Citing the social media company on 11 of its 22 pages, it takes the position that Apple's privacy features are "devastating" and that, "app developers, advertisers and the ads ecosystem lose."

The paper, subtitled "An Analysis of Apple's iOS 14 Policy Updates," is written by D. Daniel Sokol of the University of Florida Levin College of Law, and Feng Zhu, from the Harvard Business School.

"While thinly veiled as a privacy-protecting measure, Apple's iOS 14 policy changes harm the entire ad-supported ecosystem-- from developers to advertisers to end consumers," they write in the full paper. "By sharply limiting the ability of third-party apps to create value through personalized advertising, Apple's policy changes undermine competition."

As of iOS 14.5, app developers are required to ask users if they want to allow ads to track them. This App Tracking Transparency has previously seen Facebook reportedly wanting to "cause pain" to Apple, and many worldwide marketing firms have strong objections too.

The writers of this paper describe how Apple's messaging allegedly uses "stark, biased, and misleading terms," which "diminish consumers' abilities to make meaningful and informed choices about data use."

It does not address the issue that prior to App Tracking Transparency, users were not typically informed of an app's data use. It also does not mention that Facebook was never clear on what it did with users' data, prior to Apple's moves.

"Without convincing explanations of how its policy changes represent the least competition-restrictive means of enhancing consumer privacy and why those changes do not apply to Apple's own apps and services," say the authors, "Apple may have a hard time justifying its exclusionary conduct."

Rather than an academic study of an issue, the paper reads as a position statement. It is critical of Apple for not having "convincing explanations," for example, but the authors seemingly did not ask Apple for any.

It does briefly attempt to put App Tracking Transparency in a wider context of what else is happening with privacy in the industry. However, it chiefly does so in a damning criticism of Europe's General Data Protection Regulations.

The authors state that the EU's GDPR regulatory measures, meant to reduce spam sent to the public, have "had a negative effect on venture capital investment." It connects this to Apple's ATT by stating that any system that requires users to choose to opt-in to advertising could "chill innovation and reduce welfare to consumers."

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  • Reply 1 of 29
    bakerzdosenbakerzdosen Posts: 182member
    I personally would be fine if there were an option to get a complete list of all the "private" things you were sharing with FB.

    Maybe people have just accepted that the 'service' FB provides is worth giving up their privacy. I personally am not OK with it, so I avoid it entirely now.

    But I do miss some of the interaction I'd get from it. So if everybody just decided to move to some other less-invasive platform, I'd probably use that.

    For now though, I simply live without those interactions and feel like my life is better for it.
  • Reply 2 of 29
    If they hadn't taken my country hostage, I would leave Facebook.

    But even to schedule doctor appointments WhatsApp is used.

    Most businesses have only an instagram, or Facebook page. No website.

    They have their ecosystem so deep, that only their services is enough to provide the tracking they need to survive.

    I Would pay for a private internet.
    equality72521d.j. adequateviclauyycwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 29
    williamlondonwilliamlondon Posts: 1,334member
    Boo hoo hoo. Blah, blah, blah. "Leave Zuckerberg and his greed alone."

    Oh poor, poor Britney.
    imperialforcesd.j. adequatejas99viclauyycbaconstangjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 29
    If you want my personal information, get a warrant. 
    williamlondondarkpawd.j. adequateStrangeDaysjas99viclauyycbaconstangjony0watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 29
    kurai_kagekurai_kage Posts: 106member
    Come on Facebook, tell us how you really feel.
  • Reply 6 of 29
    mike1mike1 Posts: 3,303member
    Apple's iOS 14 policy changes harm the entire ad-supported ecosystem-- from developers to advertisers to end consumers.
    That's a good thing. Not this end consumer. I never asked for, wanted or liked personalized ads. They're downright creepy.

    Apple's privacy features are "devastating" and that, "app developers, advertisers and the ads ecosystem lose."
    I don't give a rat's buttocks whether this policy is devastating to any of them.
    It's like the oil industry complaining that the Solar Power industry is hurting them.

    If an app relies on secondary revenue from back-end advertising, it is probably not an app worth owning or using. Charge a fair price for your app and sell it.

    Facebook's strong protestations confirm that their entire business is a sham. They provide a possibly somewhat useful service (to some) in order to facilitate their real business which is advertising sales. Just like the Wizard of Oz. Apple is asking everyone to look behind the curtain and FB doesn't like it.

    williamlondondewmeGabyjmgregory1d.j. adequateStrangeDaysjas99viclauyycsconosciutobaconstang
  • Reply 7 of 29
    xbitxbit Posts: 391member
    I'd assumed that companies like Facebook would soon find away around Apple's ATT. Judging by how much they're crying about it, perhaps not. :D
  • Reply 8 of 29
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,429member
    The only issue I have with ATT is that it may lure some folks into believing that their personal data and privacy is somehow now "safe" because of what Apple is doing. What Apple is doing is a very good thing, but it is a small band-aid on what is a massive problem of wide ranging and pervasive surveillance, data mining, and automated data fusion of ordinary people. Facebook is a golden goose feeding all manner of personal data into these systems, some of which are probably operated by folks who are clearly on the naughty list. Any public entity that forces its users to use Facebook is complicit in perpetuating the problem. Being lazy and/or cheap is not a valid excuse.
    edited May 2021 williamlondonGabybaconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 29
    auxioauxio Posts: 2,738member
    What a spin job.  I have no doubt they're spinning up disinformation campaigns to run on their platforms to keep people ignorant and confused as I type this.
  • Reply 10 of 29
    earthkidearthkid Posts: 33member
    I totally agree with Mike1. Facebook will keep find a way to go against apple and doesn't matter what they have to do to take apple down. they just want this thing to go away and turn everyone against apple att.  they need to stop because the more they do the more people don't want to use them anymore. I stop use them altogether. I'm no longer use Facebook, what's app, and instagram. why do I need to use those who don't care about my privacy and my safety.
  • Reply 11 of 29
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 2,004member
    I’d be embarrassed to have my name associated with such a study.  The optics of this study look really bad.  I have not read the paper and so cannot say if the points are valid etc but the optics of this look really bad for FB and the study authors.   
  • Reply 12 of 29
    GabyGaby Posts: 190member
    Has Zuckerberg taken to farming? Because everything he says, does or is involved in has a pungent whiff of Bullsh*!

    Firstly he should state his views and stick to them rather than this back and forth of ever changing and seemingly confused narratives.
    It’s harmful, Apple is Evil….Actually they’re doing us a big favour because it will drive more advertising to our platform etc….
    Secondly, the only ones that benefit from targeted advertising and data harvesting are the massive data brokers such as Facebook, google Et Al. It vastly increases margins and profits, the benefits of which are not passed on to the clients. Considering how efficient this technology is they should be getting much cheaper ads.  The fact is, It has served to devalue and effectively eliminate the competition for traditional advertisements. This is the real anticompetitive behaviour.
    The constant rhetoric that these corporations are complaining about measures such as ATT or the GDPR for altruistic reasons - i.e the “consumer” - which by the way I loathe this descriptor! - drives me nuts as its a blatant lie.
    Why are citizens themselves not consulted for any of these papers or hearings etc? A survey is very simple realistically. Considering it affects us I think it is our views that matter most of all. If they care so much about the user then they should value the more transparent nature and extra choice we have in whether to allow this highly intrusive practice. Those that are happy to allow, fair play, but count me out. In my opinion any product or service that you must give away for “free” has no real value in the first place. If they are so convinced they have a revolutionary product that connects people all over the world blah blah… then they should offer a subscription - say £1.49 per month - £18 per year multiplied by 2.7 billion is not an insignificant sum.
    Another thing that irritates me is the frequent attempts to distract and misinform by stating that Apple doesn’t follow its own rules because their own apps, products and services don’t have pop ups and dialog boxes. They have extensive privacy policies in fairly plain English in many places within the OS explaining exactly what they collect, why and how to opt out or turn off the features. There are granular controls within settings for location services through to various product improvements, to mapping and siri recordings. If there isn’t a distinctive dialog box, it’s because they don’t follow that practice. If and until Apple does something to make me mistrust them, or there’s some huge scandal, I’ll take them at their word as would I imagine most other customers. That their stance on privacy is part of their business model and gives them a competitive advantage is not in doubt. People are not stupid. They are very good at making their own interests align with that of their customers and having some good corporate values. But rather than seeking to hobble them by systematically destroying their business strategies, these other companies should instead adapt, innovate, and compete on merit. Since when was competition in and of itself anticompetitive?! I think it is a farce to expect a company to lower their own standards to make it easier for others. It’s like expecting someone smarter than you to dumb themselves down to make you feel better.
    Granted, as Apple has grown into the behemoth that it is today, perhaps there should be some regulations put in place for them and other massive companies like them, but that will be no mean feat when they are structured in such a way that all of their products are by and large part of the same ecosystem, which is what defines them and attracts customers to begin with.

    edited May 2021 baconstangwatto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 29
    j2fusionj2fusion Posts: 153member
    I still don’t understand how a setting that give a consumer a choice can be derided as it is. Facebook keeps trying to frame the conversation as Apple asserting control but Apple is just informing and allowing the user to decide. If I, as a consumer, decide not change anything then all is as it was before 14.5. The only difference is Facebook needs to step up and convince me why leaving it as it was is a good idea (hint: that will never happen). Because most people agree with me and would not allow tracking, it points to Facebook’s flawed business model and they know it.
  • Reply 14 of 29
    Fidonet127Fidonet127 Posts: 512member
    Wolf complains about shepherd protecting their flock. 
  • Reply 15 of 29
    omasouomasou Posts: 592member
    I had always thought news of some stalker, following and hurting someone by using FB would be the platforms downfall.

    Now it's becoming painfully obvious that the CEO is entirely capable of running the platform into the ground all on his own.
  • Reply 16 of 29
    omasouomasou Posts: 592member
    If they hadn't taken my country hostage, I would leave Facebook.

    But even to schedule doctor appointments WhatsApp is used.

    Most businesses have only an instagram, or Facebook page. No website.

    They have their ecosystem so deep, that only their services is enough to provide the tracking they need to survive.

    I Would pay for a private internet.
    Drives me crazy when I see a business use Facebook or Yelp as it's web site and just close the page.
  • Reply 17 of 29
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 10,557member
    "By sharply limiting the ability of third-party apps to create value through personalized advertising, Apple's policy changes undermine competition.”

    But Apple doesn't do that at all. Apple merely gives the consumer the choice to limit their data from being collected. The consumer is perfectly able to let Facebook to track them, IF THEY SO CHOOSE.
  • Reply 18 of 29
    “Create value,” that’s going to keep me laughing. I’ll really miss the value of being bombarded with adds — half the time for things I already bought. 
  • Reply 19 of 29
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,921member
    Yeah nah yeah, I’m fine with it. FB can still build your ad profile using internal signals, they don’t need external signals. You’d never tolerate this from traditional media or IRL. 
  • Reply 20 of 29
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 3,598member
    I've been known for complaining that Tim Cook is fighting Apple's legal battles with weak public statements. 

    Mark Zuckerberg's statements have been loud and clear, but they are the wrong arguments. Here's what I think Mark should say: (I apologize for being the devil's advocate)
    Tim Cook announced a few days ago that Apple will get its revenue for his Apple App Store "one way or another." That's a valid position, which also applies to FaceBook. If Apple decides to unilaterally revoke one of FaceBook's ways in iOS for making money, through its new App Tracking Transparency software, FaceBook will find another way. Apple has the right to charge users for "free apps" on its app store, and FaceBook has the right to charge users who use FaceBook. That fee could come as money, or personal information, or varying service levels like fewer ads or faster server response times for people who provide us with the data we need to make our money. Apple isn't the only company who can play that game. FaceBook can take a page from Apple's playbook and this is a game Apple can't win because, like Apple, FaceBook has a relationship with the users outside of the FaceBook app on iOS. If, however, Apple decides to play fair and nice with its iOS features, FaceBook won't need to resort to charging users "one way or another."

    By comparing FaceBook's problem to Apple's problem, he may get popular support.

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