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Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Ads

Illustration for article titled Facebook: Wont Somebody Please Think of the Ads

Photo: JOSH EDELSON/AFP (Getty Images)

The exhausting saga of Apple vs. Facebook continues.

With Apple gearing up to release a privacy tool intended to allow users to limit the data collected about them across apps and websites—a policy with which the company has specifically targeted Facebook—the social media giant announced Monday it’ll be introducing a prompt of its own to, as the company claimed, “help people make a more informed decision” about its data-gobbling practices. While Apple’s prompt will ask users whether they wish to allow a specific app to track them, Facebook has managed to reframe this data collection as the kind of thing we should all be so lucky to opt in to—because ads. A thing we all love!

In images of the Facebook prompt published by CNBC, Facebook has not-so-subtly massaged the narrative here to present its data-tracking policies as beneficial for showing users “ads that are more personalized” as well as for supporting “businesses that rely on ads to reach customers.” Absent here, of course, is any mention of the fact that data collection is key to Facebook’s own business and that of its many brands and products.

Still, Facebook has framed its push-back on the policy as a defense of the little guy and small businesses that are not Facebook. To be clear, refusing to allow Facebook to suck up a bunch of data about you will still allow it to show you ads—they just won’t be personalized. Conveniently, the company is calling this approach “education,” which it says Apple permits.

Apple did not immediately return a request for comment about the initiative.

Tensions between the two companies have been escalating for years, but recent months saw escalations on both privacy and antitrust matters. Facebook is reportedly considering filing an antitrust complaint against Apple over the latter’s controversial App Store policies on the grounds that Apple makes special exceptions for its own apps.

On Apple’s side, the company has condemned Facebook specifically for, as Apple’s global head of privacy Jane Horvath wrote last year, collecting “as much data as possible across both first and third party products to develop and monetize detailed profiles of their users, and this disregard for user privacy continues to expand to include more of their products.” Meanwhile, Apple chief Tim Cook last week barbed Facebook in a fiery screed on “data exploitation” at a data protection and privacy conference. Though he did not name the company specifically, there was zero question about whom he was speaking. And around and around we go.


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