Facebook and Instagram posts in iOS apps tell users that tracking helps them keep them ‘free’

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Facebook continues its campaign against Apple’s iOS 14 privacy updates, adding a message to its iOS app that the information it collects from other apps and websites can “help keep Facebook free.” A similar message was seen on Instagram’s iOS app (Facebook is Instagram’s parent company). Technology researcher Ashkan Soltani first noticed the new pop-up messages on Saturday. They appear as part of an explanation of the iOS 14 rules updates.

“This version of iOS requires that we ask permission to track certain information about these devices to improve your ads. Learn how we limit the use of this information if you don’t enable this device setting,” the pop-up screen reads. use information about your activity that we receive from other apps and websites to: show you ads that are more personalized, keep Facebook free [and] support businesses that rely on advertising to reach their customers. (I was unable to get this whine screen to appear on my iPhone with iOS 14.5).

The new sign-in requirements in the latest versions of iOS 14, including iOS 14.5, require developers to obtain express consent from device owners to share and collect their Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) across apps. Under Apple’s new policy, app developers can still use other information that a user provides for targeted advertising, even if the user chooses not to let the app track them, but that information cannot be shared with another company for ad tracking.

If developers try to bypass 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 a violation of the opt-in requirement. The rules also apply to Apple’s own apps.

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

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

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday. But Zuckerberg called Apple during Facebook’s January earnings call, referring to Apple as one of its company’s top competitors. “Apple has every incentive to use their dominant platform position to interfere with the way our apps and other apps work, which they do regularly to show their own preference,” said Zuckerberg. “This is affecting the growth of millions of businesses around the world, including with the upcoming iOS 14 changes.”

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.