What the iOS 14.5 Update Means for Facebook and Privacy

Apple users, rejoice. iOS 14.5 is here.Along with new emojis and face mask recognition, the update has added app tracking transparency, allowing users to ask apps to stop tracking their usage across their devices.

Users should note that you can only ask apps to stop monitoring and sharing their data. Apple is requiring all apps that track users to request continue tracking, but complying is difficult to enforce.

Apple has said they will remove apps from the app store if they don’t comply, but enforcing that on less popular apps can be difficult. Plus, there are loopholes that we’ll talk about later.

Facebook is one of the apps that will, of course, comply with these restrictions. But they’re not happy about it. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been openly critical of the move, and Facebook has even taken out full-page ads in newspapers and created a website to voice concerns.

But how did we get here, and why does Facebook care so much? Let’s discuss.

Zuckerberg vs Cook

Zuckerberg and Apple CEO Tim Cook have been at odds for a while. While both companies deny the feud, their public comments and anonymous coworkers tell a different story.

The feud comes down to their differing views on how the internet should function. To summarize, Zuckerberg feels the internet should be like the wild west, with little to no regulation. Cook, on the other hand, believes some curation is valuable and that user privacy should come first.

Of course, their beliefs both benefit their business models. Zuckerberg needs less privacy to create great ads, and Cook needs users to believe Apple’s products are secure and private.

Things become tenser in 2018 when a former Cambridge Analytica employee revealed the company’s misuse of Facebook’s user data to influence the 2016 presidential and senate elections. The release led to Zuckerberg testifying before Congress, receiving heat from both sides of the aisle.

The feud between Zuckerberg and Cook began taking a more public eye. Cook’s first big blow was saying he believed Facebook needed regulation.

“I think that this certain situation is so dire and has become so large that probably some well-crafted regulation is necessary…The ability of anyone to know what you’ve been browsing about for years, who your contacts are, who their contacts are, things you like and dislike and every intimate detail of your life — from my own point of view, it shouldn’t exist.”

While the phrasing is a little soft, Cook asserts that Facebook can’t regulate itself, a pretty harsh comment about a business worth more than 300 billion dollars. More importantly, Cook is attacking the foundation of Facebook’s business: advertising.

How the iOS Release Will Change Facebook

Facebook’s advertising platform is one of the primary ways the company generates revenue, and Apple’s iOS 14.5 release will reduce the platform’s capabilities. Less tracking means less well-target ads. And less effective ads leads to less ad spending.

Zuckerberg has said the release will not impact Facebook’s business negatively. He went so far as to say that Facebook may be in a better position because the company already has so much user data.

Users don’t just tell Facebook about themselves with website usage after all. Users tell Facebook their birthday, marital status, job function, education, religious affiliation, political views, and more just in their profile. All a user’s likes and app interactions tell Facebook what they’re interested in seeing too.

The Apple’s crack down on tracking does mean a very powerful part of Facebook’s advertising suite is gone. But because it doesn’t just impact Facebook, Zuckerberg may be right to think other businesses will turn to the tech giant for help.

It’s also important to note that this form of tracking isn’t the only way that apps gather data about you. For example, a tool called fingerprinting gathers impersonal information about your app usage to figure out private details about your life and interests. If there’s one constant online, it’s that advertising will find a way.

Facebook, though, is still upset. And their angle is that the release will hurt small businesses.

iOS 14.5’s Impact on Businesses

For businesses and marketers, the iOS release is not great news. The word “track” sounds insidious, but Facebook’s advertising platform is one of the best ways to reach people with relevant and less annoying ads. And, more importantly, it is also one of the cheapest ways.

Of course, large businesses will be fine. And marketers will still be able to upload information they gather elsewhere to target potential customers, but the change may hurt new and small businesses.

Because Facebook can target people so well, it’s easy for businesses with a limited budget to promote their products and services effectively. Ten dollars a day could mean hundreds or thousands of dollars in sales for mom-and-pop shops or Facebook-sized enterprises.

Google and other social media platforms like LinkedIn are still viable, less intrusive advertising platforms. They rely on what a user enters its platform. A Google search for “vacuums” on Google is still going to bring up advertisements for vacuums. On LinkedIn, advertisers can target people based solely on job title and location.

But these other options are not nearly as cheap as Facebook ads, and small businesses aren’t usually able to hire an ad-tech company to work around these new restrictions. It remains to be seen how much the change will impact Facebook ads’ efficiency, but there’s no doubt a business’ advertising budget will stretch less than before.

How to Turn Off Data Tracking

Now for the main event.

To turn off data tracking on your IOS device, make sure that you have updated to iOS 14.5. If you’re not sure if you’ve updated, navigate to Settings->General->About to check your software version. To update your iOS, click Settings->General->Software Update. You’ll receive instructions from there.

After updating, Navigate to Settings->Privacy->Tracking. You can block app tracking there.

If you don’t choose tracking preferences in settings, apps will ask if you would like them to stop tracking after you open them again. Like a notifications request, you can click no there or visit settings to do it manually.

The Bottom Line: What the IOS 14.5 Update Means for Facebook and Privacy

Overall, it seems most people are excited about the iOS 14.5 update’s privacy improvements. Users will see less relevant ads if they turn off tracking, but they’ll have the peace of mind knowing that large companies can’t access (all of) their information.

Some businesses may have trouble adjusting, but given Facebook’s history, it won’t be long until the company finds a way to work around the new regulations. It’s only a matter of time.

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Aaron Sherrill

Aaron is the Chief Technology Officer at TenHats leading the technology, cybersecurity, and data center teams of our organization. He has 25+ years of IT and security experience spanning across a variety of industries, including healthcare, manufacturing, and software development.

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