Is Apple attacking FB?

Posted by on June 14, 2021 · 3 mins read

People generally agree that Facebook encroaches on privacy by using personal data to build hyper-targeted ads. This puts Facebook’s business model in a never ending catch-22, constantly balancing between individual privacy and company profits. Apple intends to attack Facebook’s weak position by generating positive influence throughout the ad ecosystem (SKAdNetwork, Apple Ads, Private Relay), the wider internet (Private Relay), and its upcoming social products in iOS 15. In the long run, I suspect that Apple aims to replace Facebook altogether through its stronger narrative on user privacy.

Over the last year, Apple launched its first ad measurement framework (SKAdNetwork), publicly commercializing its stronger privacy first position. Through SKAdNetwork, Apple users control which apps have access to their IDFA, the device “cookie” that enables 3rd parties to hyper-target iOS users with ads. Developers who want to monetize or distribute their iOS apps using 3rd party ad networks must request permission for user IDFAs. Ironically, Apple does not publicly mention its own App Store ad network in their commercials. Cynics point out that Apple plays both sides of a rigged game. Apple undermines competing ad network product capabilities through SKAdNetwork requirements while simultaneously offering a shortcut to use their more effective ad services. At this point, no one has proof of Apple’s true intent, it’s all just speculation.

During WWDC Apple also released their Private Relay product (included in iCloud+), allowing users to hide their mobile IP addresses by routing their requests through third party servers. The product aims to obfuscate IP addresses so 3rd party ad services are unable to fingerprint devices for conversion measurement or web services can’t find the location of specific devices/cookies. Although visibly altruistic, cynics (again) question Apple’s motives by undermining 3rd party ad networks while providing a solution natively. Is all of this just privacy washing to control the internet and its experience?

I recently switched away from an Android device to an Apple device and I love it. As a user I feel safer and in control. But at the end of the day I’m trusting Apple to do the right thing with ALL my data. How can I be sure of that? How can all consumers?

Apple is also releasing more social features on iOS 15 that compete directly with Facebook’s products. Customers of Apple devices will be able to FaceTime with cross platform devices like Android and Windows. They will also be able to get better messaging services through iMessage. At its core this is just a watered down version of what Facebook is all about.

In the next couple years, I’d imagine there will be a fight between how Facebook, Apple, and the other internet giants, control what we currently consider an open internet.