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Facebook employees call out company’s hypocrisy in fight against Apple’s new privacy rules

Published Dec 23rd, 2020 6:50AM EST
Facebook vs. Apple
Image: Apple

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  • Facebook started a massive PR campaign against Apple over the new privacy features in iOS 14 that force developers to disclose how they’re tracking users and ask for permission to collect personal data.
  • Facebook said in full-page newspaper ads that Apple’s move would hurt small business and the free internet.
  • A leak shows that Facebook’s own employees criticized the campaign internally, saying it’s self-serving and borders on hypocrisy.

Facebook took full-page ads in print media on consecutive days last week, blasting Apple’s latest privacy features in iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and tvOS 14. Facebook said it was defending small businesses that would be hurt by Apple’s software update, which would also threaten the “free internet.”

Apple “forced software update” brings a privacy label tool seen above that tells people what sort of personal data apps collect and how the companies that make those apps track users online. Every app in the App Store needs to show a privacy label or risk being removed. Apps also have to ask permission to track users online. These privacy-friendly features do not surprise any iPhone or iPad users. But they don’t effectively block Facebook’s tracking. Facebook can collect all the data it wants, as long as people are willing to share it. The privacy labels feature only brings to the forefront what goes on in the background.

The Facebook campaign is more about Facebook than a defense of small business, even though the company paints it that way. Apple’s iOS 14 privacy feature might hurt Facebook’s bottom line by convincing more people to opt-out of data tracking. The EFF has already blasted Facebook for the way it’s attacking Apple, saying the latter is doing the right thing and calling for Google to follow. A new report shows that Facebook’s own employees aren’t happy with the company’s approach, calling it hypocritical.

It’s BuzzFeedNews that obtained audio from a Thursday presentation to workers, as well as internal comments about the Facebook vs. Apple privacy fight.

Here are some of the things Facebook employees wrote internally in response to the PR campaign against Apple:

  • “It feels like we are trying to justify doing a bad thing by hiding behind people with a sympathetic message.”
  • “Aren’t we worried that our stance protecting [small- and medium-sized businesses] will backfire as people see it as ‘FB protecting their own business’ instead?”
  • “People want ‘privacy.’ FB objecting here will be viewed with cynicism. Did we know this would be bad PR, & decide to publish anyway?”
  • “How do we pick a message that looks less self-serving?”
  • “We’re not going to… be the only ones that should be allowed to track people without their consent — any company can do that, even smaller startups and malicious actors.”
  • “The only thing I’m hearing, again and again, is ‘this is bad for the businesses,’ and I’d really like someone at the top to explicitly say, ‘People are better off if they don’t know what we’re doing if we don’t have to explain ourselves to them if they don’t get a choice to opt-in or opt-out of our practices if we obscure it as much as possible behind interesting features and then get them to accept surreptitious tracking on the back end as long as we downplay it.’”
  • “Why can’t we make opt-in so compelling that people agree to do so. I can think of a dozen ideas that might make people join. Why couldn’t FB create its own version of Prime, for example, that gives you discounts on purchases?”


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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.