Facebook’s quarterly results have been exceptional. More than 28,000 million dollars in revenue and 2,800 million active users per month among the different properties of the company, among which are WhatsApp or Instagram.
But Mark Zuckerberg is not happy. Quite the opposite. In the call after the presentation of the accounts, before analysts and investors, the founder of Facebook foreshadowed an uncertain future.
The reason? Manzana. Apple has every incentive to use its dominant platform position to interfere with the operation of our applications and those of others, which they do regularly to benefit theirs, he said visibly irritated after acknowledging that the apple company is has become the biggest threat to the empire of Facebook.
The reason is the changes that Apple plans to the iOS 14 system (the one used by iPhones and iPads) for this spring, which will impose more restrictions and controls on applications that use third-party tools to obtain personal information from users.
This is one of the main ways that Facebook has to know our tastes and preferences, even when we do not use their apps, and thanks to it serve highly effective and segmented advertising.
According to Apple, the apps we use on our smartphones include an average of six trackers created by third parties. Sometimes they are integrated into user account authentication or analytics packages that simplify the work of developers, but in all cases, they give Facebook, Google, and other companies broad powers to collect personal information.
In the next update to the iOS operating system, which will reach end users this spring, Apple will require users to individually give each of these trackers permission to allow them to work. Users will also have access to a list of the trackers that are active on their phone, in which app they are integrated, and the option to deactivate them at any time. It is a measure that Apple announced in 2020 but has delayed to give time for the different apps to adapt.
Today, on the occasion of international privacy day, Apple has also launched a statement entitled “A day in the life of your data that delves into the issue, explaining how daily tasks we do with our devices give third companies a window to our personal information.
In addition to the statement, Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, is scheduled to speak today in Brussels on privacy at the CPDP (Computers, Privacy and Data Protection) conference.
Apple’s strategy has been applauded by several privacy organizations, but it puts the business models of Facebook and other companies in serious trouble. Without access to detailed information on their audience, the effectiveness of the advertising they serve will suffer and the fees they can ask for it will be lower.
Apple is also acting on several fronts. Its web browser, Safari, also includes in the latest versions several protection mechanisms that have complicated the task of collecting detailed information from users reducing the effectiveness of advertising compared to that served to users of other platforms.
The damage is done to Facebook and Google, however, could turn against the company itself. In the US Apple is facing several lawsuits for what many companies consider the abuse of its monopoly position given the control it has over the App Store.
The US government has already begun to consider whether it should regulate Apple’s activity or impose a fine for the conditions it imposes on third-party companies.
The more you press your competitors with privacy requirements, the more pressure government authorities receive from those affected to arbitrate in a possible monopoly situation.
Apple is in a complex position moreover, because it not only controls the platform but also has services that compete directly with those of Facebook or Google. Its products, however, do not face the same limitations and are installed by default on the company’s phones and tablets.