Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Apple vs. Facebook: The Privacy Policy Debate

Privacy is a tricky subject when it comes to navigating the digital world. On one hand, we want and appreciate getting personalized recommendations on our favorite streaming platform or shopping app. On the flip side, we are unable to show the exact appreciation for the ways through which companies procure this result. While we do understand that personalization requires being transparent with our information, the prospect of having our very personal data out there for companies who can use them with little recourse can be intimidating. 

Companies aren’t all that far away from the conflict either. Let’s take the case of Apple, a company that has long since helmed itself as the defender of users’ privacy. The tech giant’s CEO Tim Cook recently announced the company’s new privacy policy at the Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection conference in January 2021. Basically, the new policy will be enforced with the next Apple software update and will allow users to exercise full control over the companies that they allow to share their data with. Unlike other versions, however, this will be a mandatory requirement in the new updates.

This essentially puts an end to the woe of the “one-and-done” system of all apps having access to the same data and eliminates the need for any third-party apps to be transparent with their policies. Simply put, users will no longer need to worry about apps changing their policies.  

While this may seem like a breath of fresh air to users, other tech companies are not happy with this development. Leading the charge is Facebook, another tech giant that has long since helmed itself as the defender of medium and small businesses. Their app has been known to depend quite heavily on personalized advertising customers, much of which is admittedly dedicated to highlighting small and medium-sized businesses that utilize paid ads. And if Facebook’s 4th quarter earnings report for 2020 (https://investor.fb.com/investor-news/press-release-details/2021/Facebook-Reports-Fourth-Quarter-and-Full-Year-2020-Results/default.aspx) is anything to go by, it is evidently clear that that they have a lot of revenue to earn as well.

Apple’s new policy, however, puts an end to all of that. When the user has the power to block apps from reading any data at all, platforms like Facebook cannot offer the same (or any) level of personalized experiences. Given as this prevents them from also representing said businesses on the same level means that the revenue stream will soon see a significant drop, which is never good news.

Facebook has not been shy to speak on the matter in public, putting in perspective the future plight of businesses, who will see a considerable decline in reach courtesy the new Apple privacy policy. Small businesses, who largely depend on these ads for exposure, will bear the biggest brunt of all.

Not only has Facebook issued their official statement on the matter on their own platform, they have also proceeded to print ads on leading daily newspapers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post. Their aim behind it all is to show Apple that while the move may be coming from a good place, the effects might actually have the cons outweigh the pros.

While the exact date of these updates are yet to be announced, it is expected that they will roll out by the middle of 2021 at most. What happens to apps, and the companies and businesses behind them is something that we can only truly understand once it happens.