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Catching Up on Apple’s and Facebook’s Clash Over Online Privacy

3 MINUTE READ | February 2, 2021

Catching Up on Apple’s and Facebook’s Clash Over Online Privacy

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Abby Long

Abby Long is the Senior Managing Editor at PMG.

In line with Data Privacy Day late last week, Apple CEO Tim Cook gave a live-streamed keynote speech at the Computers, Privacy & Data Protection Conference on a range of topics, including tech-fueled extremism, federal privacy laws, self-censorship, and the importance of user privacy. The address (and subsequent media interviews with Fast Company, GQ, Inc., and others) was Cook’s sharpest criticism to date on the role technology and social media have played in influencing real-life events, the spread of misinformation and the current social climate. 

Related: Apple provided more guidance for app developers in the new App Store Review Guidelines and clarified that ATT would be released in the early spring of this year.

In his interview with GQ, Cook mapped out the four pillars of data privacy Apple is focused on — data minimization, on-device processing, transparency, and security — before describing how Apple’s new privacy initiatives, from the AppTrackingTranspareny (ATT) Framework to App Store Nutrition Labels, as an effort to fight the world’s “data industrial complex” which he believes is “degrading [the] fundamental right to privacy… and our social fabric by consequence.” 

Cook’s remarks came a day after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg named Apple the social giant’s biggest competitor during Facebook’s Q4 earnings call. During the call, Facebook executives warned investors of significant headwinds, including ATT and the evolving regulatory landscape. Soon after the call, the New York Times reported that Facebook has been considering suing Apple for antitrust concerns in its app store practices.

These events occurred in a short 48-hour window, resulting in a flurry of media coverage that overshadowed some of the latest developments in the online privacy revolution. 

Here’s a round-up of what you might have missed: 

In a blog post on Wednesday, Facebook announced its Conversion API to allow advertisers to share data directly with Ads manager. To address other issues the company is facing, Facebook plans to overhaul the Facebook Groups experience amid a misinformation crackdown while also testing ‘topic inclusion controls’ with select advertisers to keep ad placements away from specific topics in the News Feed. Facebook is also appealing directly to platform users via a new prompt that encourages people to accept tracking to benefit from better advertising. 

Related: The Facebook Oversight Board is out with its first decisions

Google released details on how it is complying with Apple’s ATT and recommendations for how advertisers and app developers can prepare. The announcement includes the latest version of Google Analytics for Firebase, which enables new features like SKAdNetwork support and a Google-led education series starting in early February to help advertisers and partners prepare for ATT.

As we draw closer to a cookie-less future, Google teams provided an update in finding a privacy-focused solution with its work in the Privacy Sandbox. In the latest announcement, Google shared that the Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC) API, created in the Privacy Sandbox, is 95 percent as effective as third-party cookies when used for interest-based targeting. 

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Looking ahead, we have Q4 earnings from Alphabet, Amazon, and other tech companies this week, giving us a closer look at the state of the industry and the future of advertising.