Apple and Facebook are at a war of words over which one of them is violating their users' privacy more. The feud unfolded after the former sent a letter to several human rights and privacy organizations, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Human Rights Watch, explaining the delay in rolling out the new iOS 14 privacy restrictions.
In the letter, Apple's Global Head of Privacy Jane Hovarth also said that Facebook has a disregard for user privacy. "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 monetize detailed profiles of their users," Jane wrote in the letter. "This disregard for user privacy continues to expand to include more of their products."
This statement prompted a quick response from the social media giant. The Menlo Park company said Apple is trying to distract users from its own privacy issues. This was a reference to privacy concerns that emerged earlier this month after several Mac users reported trouble opening apps. Many security researchers and privacy activists claimed that Apple has started harvesting too much information from Mac users without their knowledge, leading to this slow-down.
Although Apple has outright denied those claims, it did not stop Facebook from accusing the Cupertino-based iPhone maker of using data privacy to cover its advertising business. "They are 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," Facebook said.
"They claim it's about privacy, but it's about profit. We are not fooled," the company added. "This is all part of a transformation of Apple's business away from innovative hardware products to data-driven software and media."
Apple and Facebook are at each other's throats over data privacy
Apple had announced a slew of new privacy restrictions with the launch of iOS 14 in September this year. Among those is a privacy feature that requires users to explicitly choose whether an app can track them for advertising purposes. As of now, apps start tracking users by default as soon as they are downloaded onto the device.
However, Apple has now delayed the rollout of those restrictions until early 2021. The company said that several developers requested additional time because they are unprepared for the changes. Most of them are ad-reliant businesses, including Facebook, as this new iOS privacy measure is certain to hurt their revenue.
Civil rights groups criticized this postponed rollout saying it is not in the best interest of users. Since the privacy measures are for users, Apple should not be bowing to developers' demands while leaving users exposed.
The company has now responded saying it delayed the rollout to give developers enough time to update their systems. Apple remains "fully committed" to these privacy features, Jane wrote in the letter.
However, the company somehow couldn't stop itself from dragging Facebook into this. And now, the two tech giants are at each other's throats over user privacy and data collection practices.
Facebook has also argued that these restrictions would be damaging to small businesses on its platform. Such businesses depend heavily on the ability to accurately target and measure advertising campaigns to not waste funds. Facebook says they are already suffering from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and Apple's restrictions would further hurt them.
Interestingly, this war of words comes at a time when both Apple and Facebook are under regulatory scrutiny over their business practices. A US House subcommittee had last month accused the two companies, as well as Google and Amazon, of violating antitrust laws.