Facebook Accused By Apple For Disregarding User Privacy

Facebook has been criticised by iPhone maker Apple for trying to “collect as much data as possible” from users.

Despite objections from the advertising industry, Apple will march ahead with its plans for launching of a new privacy feature, the iPhone maker said. 

This criticism was made in a letter to a coalition of privacy groups by Apple’s director of global privacy, Jane Horvath. The new feature by Apple will mandate developers to first actively get permission from users to track how they use other apps which Horvath reassured would be launched despite the obstacles.

“We developed [App Tracking Transparency] for a single reason: because we share your concerns about users being tracked without their consent and the bundling and reselling of data by advertising networks and data brokers,” Horvath wrote.

The targeting of adverts that were based on demographic details rather than user tracking was also defended by her.  “Facebook and others have a very different approach to targeting,” Horvath wrote.

“Not only do they allow the grouping of users into smaller segments, they use detailed data about online browsing activity to target ads. Facebook executives have made clear their intent is to collect as much data as possible across both first and third party products to develop and monetise detailed profiles of their users, and this disregard for user privacy continues to expand to include more of their products,” she wrote.

A strong retaliation from Facebook was made to the claim by Apple as the former accused the iPhone maker if “using their dominant market position to self-preference their own data collection, while making it nearly impossible for their competitors to use the same data”.

“They claim it’s about privacy, but it’s about profit,” the company said.

A wave of controversy was sparked since Apple announced its plans in July of launching the feature called the ATT which is expected to be launched in early 2021. When used activate the feature, all developers running apps on iPhones or iPads will have to ask permission from users prior to accessing particular data that can be used to track them across other apps. The mane of this data is “identifier for advertisers” and there are fears among advertisers that permission will be refused by users which will harm the ability of the advertisers to personalise adverts.

In order to give the industry more time to prepare, the launch of the ATT was delayed by Apple in September. Back then, privacy campaigners raised an outcry because of the delay. Horvath sought to address those campaigners in the letter on Friday.

“These features will constitute a vital policy improvement, with the potential to strengthen respect for privacy across the industry. Apple should implement these features as expeditiously as possible,” said The Ranking Digital Rights campaign, a coalition including Access Now, Amnesty International and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

The issue of the very existence of the ID for advertisers has resulted in Apple facing a separate complaint. The tracking capabilities violate privacy regulations, argued the consumer rights activist Max Schrems in a privacy case filed on Monday.

(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)

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