Facebook and Instagram reviews in iOS applications indicate that tracking users keeps them “free”


iOS 14 has new privacy settings that let users opt out of tracking.

Facebook continues to press against Apple’s iOS 14 privacy updates. Adding a notice to the iOS app that tells users what information they collect from other apps and websites may “help keep Facebook free”. A similar post was seen in Instagram’s iOS app (Facebook is Instagram’s parent company). Tech scientist Ashkan Soltani noted for the first time the new pop-up ads on Saturday. They show up as part of an explanation of iOS 14 policy updates.

“This version of iOS requires us to request permission to track certain data from those devices to enhance your ads. Learn how we limit the use of this information if you don’t enable this device setting,” says the popup. “We use your business information received from other applications and websites to show you more personalized ads. Help keep Facebook free [and] support companies that count on ads to reach their customers. (I was unable to get that nag screen to appear on my iPhone which is running iOS 14.5).

The new opt-in requirements in the latest versions of iOS 14, including iOS 14.5 require developers to get express consent from device owners to allow their Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) to be shared and collected across apps. Under Apple’s new policy, application developers are still able to use additional information that a user provides for targeted advertising. Even if the user chooses not to let the application track them, but this information cannot be shared with any other company for advertising tracking.

If developers try to get around the opt-in requirement, or try to replace the IDFA with another piece of identifying information such as an email address, that app will be considered in violation of the opt-in requirement. The rules apply to Apple’s own applications, too.

Facebook has been a vocal critic of Apple’s iOS 14 privacy updates, arguing that the privacy changes could hurt small businesses which may rely on Facebook’s ad network to reach customers. In statements to the press and in newspaper ads, Facebook has said Apple is encouraging new business models for apps so they rely less on advertising and more on subscriptions, which would potentially give Apple a cut.

But the “keep Facebook/Instagram free” tactic seems to run counter to Facebook’s long-standing tagline which indicated the company was “free and always will be.” Of course, Facebook quietly removed that slogan from its homepage in 2019, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg didn’t rule out a paid version of Facebook when he testified before Congress in 2018. “There will continue to be a free version of Facebook,” he said.

Facebook did not respond to an inquiry on Sunday. But Zuckerberg called Apple during the January profit Facebook call, referring to Apple as one of the biggest competitors in his business. “Apple has every incentive to use their dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps and other apps work, which they regularly do to preference their own,” Zuckerberg said. “This has implications for the growth of millions of businesses worldwide, including with the upcoming changes to iOS 14.”

Apple did not immediately answer a comment request on Sunday.

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