Data Wars: iOS14 makes it harder for Big Tech to track your data, and Facebook isn't happy about it
It’s no secret at this point, Facebook mines your data. The company compiles it and sells it en masse to app developers and advertisers all over the internet. Your data is not really yours, and yet, it’s literally more valuable than oil in this strange day and age. It is one of the most important resources for Big Tech and they have become both addicted and entitled to it.
Which was why, when Apple announced that the iOS14 was going to include a feature that allows users to control which data each app can access, they got some pushback from Big Tech. Such a feature effectively puts people’s data back into people’s hands — it gives us a door to shut in Big Tech’s face. No more will they guzzle our data like it belongs to them, without our permission or consent.
Well, needless to say, Facebook wasn’t happy about this. CFO, David Wehner expressed to CNBC that Facebook is afraid that this new feature will hurt ad businesses. Sure, it will give People more control over their data, but to the detriment of their $11.97 billion revenue.
“We’re still trying to understand what these changes will look like and how they will impact us and the rest of the industry, but at the very least, it’s going to make it harder for app developers and others to grow using ads on Facebook and elsewhere.”
The new feature of iOS14 makes gives users the option to "opt in" if they want to share data tracking. If you don’t want an app (like Facebook or Reddit or Twitter) tracking/collecting your data, all you do is press a button and it’s blocked from doing so.
Here is how Apple describes it:
“Apple requires app developers to ask for permission before they track you or your device across apps or websites they don’t own in order to target advertising to you, measure your actions due to advertising, or to share your information with data brokers.”
Sounds pretty reasonable. From the consumer’s perspective at least. From the provider’s point of view, though, this new Apple feature will directly affect their ability to generate user-specific ads — the freaky kind that know what you’re thinking about buying before you search for it. That’s a problem. How are they supposed to make money hand-over-fist when they don’t have all of our personal data? How will they (or their advertisers) ever survive if they don’t have unfettered access to track every individual’s Facebook use?!
(Spoiler alert: They’ll make it just fine.)
Wehner was adamant, though. He says that their ad revenue is a “lifeline” for a lot of small businesses, which is essential for their survival — particularly in the time of COVID.
“We are concerned that aggressive platform policies will cut at that lifeline at a time when it is so essential to small business growth and recovery,” Wehner said.
That’s a morally conscientious argument, to be sure. But is Wehner really worried about the small businesses who pay to advertise with them? Or is he worried about the $11.97 billion bottom line, which depends almost wholly on their data mining?
That’s hard to say for certain, because Facebook also vocalized concerns about their quarterly revenue. They predicted they would see 10% growth in revenue for their third quarter, however, now, with the unveiling of this new feature of iOS14, they expect that to decrease for the fourth quarter. Investors won’t be thrilled. Board members will likely grimace. The Zuck will nervously sip some water.
But, hey, at least The People will have more jurisdiction over their own data. At least we’ll be able to control our own privacy a little better. At least we can show these Tech Moguls that they aren’t entitled to our data anymore!
At least, not until they find some new way to circumvent this iOS14 feature. As mentioned, data is more valuable than oil these days (seriously, check it out) — and the arms-race to collect it, en masse, without paying for it, is not going to be lost so easily.