Another day, another (potential) lawsuit. The Information reports that with the aid of outside legal counsel, Facebook for months has been preparing an antitrust lawsuit against Apple (irony, right?) that would allege the iPhone-maker abused its power in the smartphone market by forcing app developers to abide by App Store rules that Apple’s own apps don’t have to follow.
Quoting unnamed “two people with direct knowledge” of the matter, the article says that the legal preparations by Facebook “signal that the feud between the companies could further escalate, though ultimately Facebook may decide not to file a suit.” Facebook’s beef? The change to iPhone software that will make it harder for Facebook and its advertisers to track people across apps.
Developers must ask users to share their device’s unique identifier for advertising purposes through a prompt. The identifier for advertisers or IDFA is the only means for advertisers to precisely target and track users within apps on iOS devices. Think of an IDFA as something like a cookie that is tied to devices instead of browsers, in that it enables an advertiser to get notified when a user of a phone has taken an action like clicking on their ad in a browser and then installing, using, or interacting with ads in their app.
As noted by the Invoca Blog, the identifier is used in non-browser apps, which never had support for cookies. IDFAs only provide advertisers data in aggregate and no individually identifiable data is available.
Apple says it “does not access or use the IDFA on a user’s device for any purpose.” The company says its aim is to protect the privacy of its users and that iOS 14 gives users greater control over whether apps could link with third parties for the purposes of targeted advertising.
With the change, iPhone users will see a pop-up window in each app. The pop-up warns users that an app is tracking their data for advertising purposes, and gives them the option to block the app from doing so.
In fact, Apple today announced that its App Tracking Transparency privacy measure will be required starting with the next beta versions of iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and tvOS 14. The software updates will be publicly released in the early spring.