Apple, Facebook Fight Over Ad Tracking

John Lister's picture

Moves by Apple to restrict ad tracking have prompted a war of words with Facebook and a legal battle with advertisers. They both object to changes that require express permission for some tracking.

The arguments are over the "identifier for advertisers" or IDFA. That's a specific code for each iPhone or iPad which can be used by advertisers to track activity by device users. Until now its been possible to use IDFA with express user consent and then combine it with other data to build up a picture of the individual for targeted advertising.

The iOS 14.5 update to the iPhone and iPad operating system, which rolls out this week, that setup will change. Individual apps will now have to get explicit consent through an on-screen prompt to use the IDFA. Many people in the industry believe consent rates will be very low. (Source:

Apple Motives Questioned

The move has prompted heated argument over Apple's motives. It says it's designed solely to benefit users by giving them more control over if and how they are tracked online.

Facebook among others say Apple is trying to make apps less reliant on ad revenues and instead fund themselves through in-app payments and subscriptions, from which Apple takes a cut. It's also argued that small businesses will be particularly harmed if they can't access well-targeted ads that help them compete with big firms.

While the Facebook battle is largely a matter of public relations, the dispute is taking a legal turn in Europe. Ad industry groups in both France and Germany have filed formal complaints with competition regulators.

Regulators May Rule

They say the move will harm consumers in a couple of ways. Firstly, they'll have to spend more on apps if the advertising model is harmed. Secondly, they'll have to spend longer looking for goods and services online if the lack of tracking makes ads less relevant. (Source:

Whether those complaints go anywhere remains to be seen. Even if regulators agree Apple's policies harm consumers, that doesn't necessarily mean it is breaching competition rules, particularly in a case where the change is giving consumers more choice.

What's Your Opinion?

Would you give consent to apps accessing this ID? Is targeted advertising from tracking a fair price to pay for getting apps free of charge? Should regulators or courts have any say on this policy?

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lesgray_cdn's picture

In order of questions asked in the last paragraph, No, Maybe, No.

I think tracking is somewhat evil (intrusive) and would never give my consent. When I read a non digital newspaper or magazine (or watch regular tv), the ads there are not targeted to me, specifically. If this means I would have to pay for an app, then so be it. There are already many apps out there that are "free" if one is prepared to put up with ads or one can pay to get rid of the ads. Seems to me this is the same thing just a bit more granular.

The courts do not have to be involved as consumers can vote with their wallets which way they want to go. Being informed (that is, knowing which apps are tracking you and which are not given permission) should not be a court or even government regulated thing. I am the one being targeted for the ads, therefore I should be giving or withholding permission.

We as a society are already overwhelmed with advertising, having a little measure of control cannot and should not be a bad thing.

buzzallnight's picture

an ad?

We are immune to ads
or our houses would be so full of stuff we couldn't get in them!

Beside we know all ads are full of miss information to put it mildly.....

lesgray_cdn's picture

but it is new AND improved! :P