Facebook's IDFA feud with Apple polarizes an industry bracing for change
As Facebook intensifies its public campaign against privacy changes to Apple's iOS 14 software, it's finding plenty of support among companies that help brands target, measure and find consumers.
The social media giant took out full-page newspaper ads Wednesday, claiming small businesses would suffer the most if Apple makes changes to its Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), which assigns a unique number to a user's mobile device. When the changes to iOS roll out sometime next year, users will have to give explicit permission through a popup for app publishers to track them across different apps and websites, or to share that information with third parties.
“Losing the ability to track users through IDFA would put advertising back in the '80s where it’s just spray and pray,” said Conor Ryan, co-founder and chief innovation officer at StitcherAds, a platform that helps advertisers deliver personalized ads on social media. He said that without tracking, advertisers won’t know “who you are or where you are, and I’m just hoping that my ads land the right audience.”
“Facebook’s interests are fully aligned with smaller and even larger advertisers,” said Ryan.
'The ultimate tax'
Oren Kaniel, CEO and Co-Founder of AppsFlyer, said ads are “the ultimate tax, a global tax to access free services, access education.” AppsFlyer sells cloud software to app developers to analyze users and ad performance. “Not everyone can afford subscription payments,” said Kaniel. “They are dependent on these free services.”
Facebook has become the most vocal internet giant to attack Apple over its privacy changes. And Apple has been the most aggressive to make privacy adjustments that are rippling throughout the industry. Facebook speaks for a large swath of the ad tech industry when it claims that Apple will hobble the ability to serve highly targeted, effective ads. And this is just one of many instances where Facebook and Apple have butted heads over the past year on the subject.
Others in the industry had a more cynical take on Facebook’s moves. “Facebook is forgetting its place as a service, not a platform,” wrote Jonathan Harrop, senior director of global marketing and communications at AdColony, an ad network. Harrop said the troves of information Facebook is harvesting “creeps people out,” and that “personalized ads just aren’t the thing that everybody needs to succeed in business.”
In an email, an Apple spokesperson defended the changes, writing that tracking can be invasive and primarily benefits larger businesses hoping to build data sets. Apple's changes will give users more control and transparency, and would apply to all developers, including Apple itself, the spokesperson said, noting that IDFA can still track users who give their consent.
In a media conference Wednesday, Dan Levy, Facebook's VP of ads and business platform, said, “Apple has been behaving anti-competitively by using their control of the App Store to benefit their bottom line at the expense of creators and small businesses, full stop. Recent moves by Apple pushed creators and businesses into a world that Apple defines, and to a business model that benefits Apple’s bottom line.”
Levy said changes to IDFA will boost Apple’s revenues by increasing subscription and in-app payments, of which Apple takes a cut, and will protect Apple’s own personalized ad platform.
The dispute comes amid a wave of changes, such as a shift away from third-party cookies, that has sparked a scramble in the ad industry for new ways to track, measure and analyze online users.