Apple attacks Facebook – but why?

 

Apple jams Facebook's web-tracking tools – BBC, 4th June 2018

 

This is the main headline the BBC used when covering the main features of the iOS update from Apple and it really made us beg the question – why attack just Facebook? Reading further on into the article it also shows another feature that allows time limits to be set on apps – and the app used more heavily in the example….Facebook.

 

The update will give an onscreen alert on pages where social sharing and comments are embedded asking the user if they want Facebook.com to use cookies and available data while browsing. This all seems like a nice consumer-focused addition to the system and with GDPR now in play it adds another level of overt control to those who use Apple products.

 

As a media agency, we buy audiences based on their use of social sharing widgets as an indicator of things they are interested in. We don’t just buy them from Facebook. Companies like ‘Sharethis’ make these audience segments available to buy through programmatic but are the iOS alerts going to ask users about this company too – and if not, why not?

 

It seems that this is more about jumping on the current bandwagon of taking down the powerhouse of advertising that Facebook (and increasingly Instagram) has become. We think it’s strange that Apple hasn’t focussed on Google – who also have cookies all over the web and integrations on many sites through their ad platforms, and also are a more obvious direct competitor to Apple. Maybe this is why they aren’t going for Google just yet.

 

Consumer confidence in how Facebook uses data is low and Apple is using that to start taking back the ownership of data collected on their devices. If they stop Facebook having the data, and then start moving onto Google – because why wouldn’t they with their penetration they will have more data on mobile web/app usage than any other company and that is hugely valuable.

 

Is Apple planning a land grab of advertising space? Weaken Facebook’s advertising product ahead of pushing their own app ads harder?

 

This will undoubtedly have an effect on advertising as we see around 60-70% of our Facebook advertising come from iPhones and 3rd party data audiences will get smaller because that user interest data will be less accessible to Facebook. As this is not set by the site itself this will also affect retargeting and lookalike audiences as it will pop up on brand sites too we assume as these often have sharing widgets embedded.

 

With these changes, it can seem like it will cause more problems for how we can plan and target our advertising but this could be a blessing in disguise for advertisers. Audiences may get smaller but they should also be more relevant, due to the active participation in advertising of the users left over. Facebook also still gets a whole load of data on the content people are engaging with on their owned platforms.

 

The other factor here that lessens the impact of this update – consumers. People are surprisingly apathetic to the cookies and data collected when they are on a site. When you read all the news about data being used digitally and the comments on these articles it would seem that all data will be lost. In reality, though people don’t like the alerts that pop-up for their consent – they get in the way of the content – and they are happy to just swipe them away in the moment. The cookie law that came in didn’t make much difference to audience sizes despite cookie alerts appearing on every site.

 

But, what will Facebook do? If they weren’t going to reform before, now they’ll have to act as this is such an overt direct attack. Hopefully, this will lead to more transparency, better communication on how data is used, which again can only be a good thing. Will this shine even more of a light into other practices from these technology giants like the suspicion that they are listening through our devices: https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/wjbzzy/your-phone-is-listening-and-its-not-paranoia

 

We hope so because then we want to see what Google and Amazon (and Apple!!!) are doing with this listening data!

 

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