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Facebook says iOS 14’s new privacy tools could harm its ad business

Apple has made it even more difficult for developers to mine your data on iOS 14. One of the new additions prevents advertisers from covertly tracking you across nearly all apps and websites, and Facebook, for one, is not looking forward to it.

On Facebook’s second-quarter follow-up earnings call, David Wehner, the company’s chief financial officer, called the forthcoming update a “headwind” and said it will “make it harder for app developers and others to grow using ads on Facebook and, really, outside of Apple, to some extent.”

More importantly, Wehner hinted that iOS 14 could potentially hurt its ad business, the social network’s primary source of revenue, in the fourth quarter of 2020, which is when Apple is expected to broadly roll out the update.

“I think we’ve seen these online platforms like Facebook and targeted ads have really been a great help to help small businesses during a time when that lifeline online is so important, and we are concerned that aggressive platform policy changes will cut at that lifeline at a time when businesses really need it to grow,” he said.

The particular feature in question is iOS 14’s new ad tracking consent option. iPhone developers will soon have to explicitly ask users before they can track them across apps or websites they don’t own.

Each device has a unique ID that advertisers employ to collate the personal data they’ve collected on you from thousands of services, and then use that data to identify you. This enables them to show you ads that specifically cater to your interests — irrespective of which app or website you’re on. iOS 14 doesn’t put an end to this practice, but it makes it mandatory for developers to offer an opt-in switch.

Facebook isn’t alone, however. A group of several European advertisers has expressed similar concerns, and argued that the new pop-up warning carries “a high risk of user refusal.”

Since its beta release, iOS 14 has already unmasked how many developers such as TikTok were secretly reading everything iPhone users copied on their phones. The practice has also reportedly landed LinkedIn in a lawsuit by a New York-based iPhone user who alleged that the Microsoft-owned company reads the clipboard information without consent.

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