• Facebook mounted a fierce attack on Apple’s new app privacy labels, accusing the company that it’s putting small businesses and the free internet in danger.
  • The new privacy feature informs users about the kind of personal data apps collect, but doesn’t stop developers like Facebook from collecting data and tracking users.
  • A single image shows the huge amount of personal data that Facebook Messenger collects compared to iMessage, Signal, and WhatsApp.

When Apple unveiled iOS 14 at WWDC 2020, the company announced a new privacy tool. The new app privacy labels would inform iPhone and iPad users about the personal data an app collects. Unsurprisingly, this infuriated companies that make a living off your data when the feature was finally released towards the end of last year. Facebook came up with a hypocritical attack against Apple, taking full-page ads in print newspapers. It accused Apple of endangering small businesses and putting at risk the free internet. Organizations like the EFF blasted Facebook’s attitude towards a feature meant only to inform and seek consent from users. As Apple explained, any app developer can still track users and collect data. The privacy labels do not put a stop to any of that. They force companies like Facebook to disclose everything they collect. Even Facebook’s employees complained about Facebook’s campaign.

If it wasn’t already clear that Facebook is attacking Apple for its own good, then the following image should be enough to drive home that point. Facebook’s attacking Apple’s privacy measures serves Facebook first and foremost.

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The image below comes from 9to5Mac and shows the privacy labels of several chat apps you might have on your phone, including Signal, iMessage, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger, as seen below.

App Privacy Labels
App privacy labels in iOS 14 – from left to right: Signal, iMessage, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger. Image source: 9to5Mac

You don’t even have to read the contents of those privacy labels to realize how much data Messenger collects from every single user. Facebook Messenger manages to grab a terrifying amount of data when compared to the other three. Even WhatsApp, which belongs to Facebook, can’t match Messenger. That’s probably because the app is end-to-end encrypted, so Facebook’s powers are more limited.

Three of those apps are end-to-end encrypted, not just WhatsApp. Signal and iMessage offer the same protection, with the latter being Apple’s own app, the default messaging app on the iPhone and iPad. Signal offers the best protection, as even Apple collects some user data. Aside from Facebook’s massive data collection practices, there’s one other thing to observe here. Apple discloses privacy label information for its own apps. The policy does not apply to third-party apps alone.

9to5Mac also listed the kind of data each of the apps collect, as follows. Facebook Messenger does list several data collection categories, and it looks like most data points are collected for several purposes. This doesn’t make it any less scary.

Signal

  1. None. (The only personal data Signal stores is your phone number, and it makes no attempt to link that to your identity.)

iMessage

  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • Search history
  • Device ID

WhatsApp

  • Device ID
  • User ID
  • Advertising Data
  • Purchase History
  • Coarse Location
  • Phone Number
  • Email Address
  • Contacts
  • Product Interaction
  • Crash Data
  • Performance Data
  • Other Diagnostic Data
  • Payment Info
  • Customer Support
  • Product Interaction
  • Other User Content

Facebook Messenger

Third-Party Advertising

PURCHASES

  • Purchase History

FINANCIAL INFO

  • Other Financial Info

LOCATION

  • Precise Location
  • Coarse Location

CONTACT INFO

  • Physical Address
  • Email Address
  • Name
  • Phone Number
  • Other User Contact Info

CONTACTS

  • Contacts

USER CONTENT

  • Photos or Videos
  • Gameplay Content
  • Other User Content

SEARCH HISTORY

  • Search History

BROWSING HISTORY

  • Browsing History

IDENTIFIERS

  • User ID
  • Device ID

USAGE DATA

  • Product Interaction
  • Advertising Data
  • Other Usage Data

DIAGNOSTICS

  • Crash Data
  • Performance Data
  • Other Diagnostic Data

OTHER DATA

  • Other Data Types

Developer’s Advertising or Marketing

PURCHASES

  • Purchase History

FINANCIAL INFO

  • Other Financial Info

LOCATION

  • Precise Location
  • Coarse Location

CONTACT INFO

  • Physical Address
  • Email Address
  • Name
  • Phone Number
  • Other User Contact Info

CONTACTS

  • Contacts

USER CONTENT

  • Photos or Videos
  • Gameplay Content
  • Other User Content

SEARCH HISTORY

  • Search History

BROWSING HISTORY

  • Browsing History

IDENTIFIERS

  • User ID
  • Device ID

USAGE DATA

  • Product Interaction
  • Advertising Data
  • Other Usage Data

DIAGNOSTICS

  • Crash Data
  • Performance Data
  • Other Diagnostic Data

OTHER DATA

  • Other Data Types

Analytics

HEALTH & FITNESS

  • Health
  • Fitness

PURCHASES

  • Purchase History

FINANCIAL INFO

  • Payment Info
  • Other Financial Info

LOCATION

  • Precise Location
  • Coarse Location

CONTACT INFO

  • Physical Address
  • Email Address
  • Name
  • Phone Number
  • Other User Contact Info

CONTACTS

  • Contacts

USER CONTENT

  • Photos or Videos
  • Audio Data
  • Gameplay Content
  • Customer Support
  • Other User Content

SEARCH HISTORY

  • Search History

BROWSING HISTORY

  • Browsing History

IDENTIFIERS

  • User ID
  • Device ID

USAGE DATA

  • Product Interaction
  • Advertising Data
  • Other Usage Data

SENSITIVE INFO

  • Sensitive Info

DIAGNOSTICS

  • Crash Data
  • Performance Data
  • Other Diagnostic Data

OTHER DATA

  • Other Data Types

Product Personalization

PURCHASES

  • Purchase History

FINANCIAL INFO

  • Other Financial Info

LOCATION

  • Precise Location
  • Coarse Location

CONTACT INFO

  • Physical Address
  • Email Address
  • Name
  • Phone Number
  • Other User Contact Info

CONTACTS

  • Contacts

USER CONTENT

  • Photos or Videos
  • Gameplay Content
  • Other User Content

SEARCH HISTORY

  • Search History
  • BROWSING HISTORY
  • Browsing History

IDENTIFIERS

  • User ID
  • Device ID

USAGE DATA

  • Product Interaction
  • Advertising Data
  • Other Usage Data

SENSITIVE INFO

  • Sensitive Info

DIAGNOSTICS

  • Crash Data
  • Performance Data
  • Other Diagnostic Data

OTHER DATA

  • Other Data Types

App Functionality

HEALTH & FITNESS

  • Health
  • Fitness

PURCHASES

  • Purchase History

FINANCIAL INFO

  • Payment Info
  • Credit Info
  • Other Financial Info

LOCATION

  • Precise Location
  • Coarse Location

CONTACT INFO

  • Physical Address
  • Email Address
  • Name
  • Phone Number
  • Other User Contact Info

CONTACTS

  • Contacts

USER CONTENT

  • Emails or Text Messages
  • Photos or Videos
  • Audio Data
  • Gameplay Content
  • Customer Support
  • Other User Content

SEARCH HISTORY

  • Search History

BROWSING HISTORY

  • Browsing History

IDENTIFIERS

  • User ID
  • Device ID

USAGE DATA

  • Product Interaction
  • Advertising Data
  • Other Usage Data

SENSITIVE INFO

  • Sensitive Info

DIAGNOSTICS

  • Crash Data
  • Performance Data
  • Other Diagnostic Data

OTHER DATA

  • Other Data Types

Other Purposes

PURCHASES

  • Purchase History

FINANCIAL INFO

  • Other Financial Info

LOCATION

  • Precise Location
  • Coarse Location

CONTACT INFO

  • Physical Address
  • Email Address
  • Name
  • Phone Number
  • Other User Contact Info

CONTACTS

  • Contacts

USER CONTENT

  • Photos or Videos
  • Gameplay Content
  • Customer Support
  • Other User Content

SEARCH HISTORY

  • Search History

BROWSING HISTORY

  • Browsing History

IDENTIFIERS

  • User ID
  • Device ID

USAGE DATA

  • Product Interaction
  • Advertising Data
  • Other Usage Data

DIAGNOSTICS

  • Crash Data
  • Performance Data
  • Other Diagnostic Data

OTHER DATA

  • Other Data Types
Chris Smith started writing about gadgets as a hobby, and before he knew it he was sharing his views on tech stuff with readers around the world. Whenever he's not writing about gadgets he miserably fails to stay away from them, although he desperately tries. But that's not necessarily a bad thing.