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Facebook is about to beg you to let it keep tracking you on your iPhone

Updated Feb 22nd, 2021 5:18AM EST
Facebook User Tracking
Image: JLO_FOTO/Adobe

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  • Facebook confirmed that it would comply with Apple’s new privacy rules on iPhone and iPad and shows its users prompts asking for permission to track them and show personalized ads.
  • Facebook insists that Apple’s new privacy rules in iOS 14 will hurt small businesses, and it will show a screen of its own to convince people to continue to let it track them across apps.
  • Facebook will continue showing ads even if users decline to be tracked, but they won’t be personalized.

Facebook launched a full-scale attack on Apple in December on account of the new privacy protections rolling out to iPhone and iPad users. Facebook took full-page ads in print media accusing Apple that its ads will impact small businesses and ultimately ruin the internet. In separate announcements and comments, Facebook did say that it would have to comply with Apple’s new app rules to continue to have its apps hosted in the App Store.

At the time, Apple launched the new app privacy labels, which tell people exactly how much data an application collects. Apple made it clear that the feature would not block any developers from collecting data, only inform users about the extent of the tracking. This comparison between Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Signal, and iMessage explains perfectly why Facebook is afraid of Apple’s privacy features. Since December, Apple has prepared another privacy feature for iPhone and iPad. This one forces developers to ask permission to be tracked. Google has found a way to avoid asking the question — it will simply dump one of its trackers. Facebook has a different plan in mind. It’ll comply with Apple’s prompt, but it would also show one of its own prompts to beg to let you track it.

Facebook updated its mid-December blog post on Monday with new information about the upcoming changes. Facebook is still disputing Apple’s privacy features, but it will comply with the new rules. Facebook makes it sound like it there’s an alternative, but it’s choosing to comply:

As we shared in December, we disagree with Apple’s approach, but will be showing their prompt to ensure stability for the businesses and people who use our services. Apple’s new prompt suggests there is a tradeoff between personalized advertising and privacy; when in fact, we can and do provide both. The Apple prompt also provides no context about the benefits of personalized ads.

Google is also complying with the new rules, but Google found a way not to show a prompt like the one below.

iPhone User Tracking
Example shows a prompt asking users to allow an app to track them across other services. Image source: Apple Inc.

Whatever course of action Facebook would have chosen, those users who care about their privacy would have paid attention, given the high profile of Facebook’s anti-Apple campaign. So Facebook had to publicly address the way it would comply with Apple’s new requirements.

But Facebook continues marching on the same idea, that targeted ads that use your personal data are critical to small businesses, and those small businesses will be impacted unless you agree to allow Facebook to continue to grab your data. To that end, Facebook will show you a screen of its own to tell you why it’s important for you to accept Facebook’s tracking:

To help people make a more informed decision, we’re also showing a screen of our own, along with Apple’s. It will provide more information about how we use personalized ads, which support small businesses and keep apps free. If you accept the prompts for Facebook and Instagram, the ads you see on those apps won’t change. If you decline, you will still see ads, but they will be less relevant to you. Agreeing to these prompts doesn’t result in Facebook collecting new types of data. It just means that we can continue to give people better experiences. We feel that people deserve the additional context, and Apple has said that providing education is allowed.

Facebook never explained why it hadn’t asked its users explicitly to allow tracking across apps for personalized apps.

Those people who don’t care about user tracking, whether it’s Facebook, Google, or anyone else, won’t care about the new prompts. Those who do care will soon be able to reject Facebook’s tracking, no matter how many information screens they’ll have to deal with.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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