Facebook goes to war with Apple over targeted ads

File: The Facebook logo on a smartphoneAFP/Denis Charlet

SAN FRANCISCO - Social networking giant Facebook opened fire on Apple, saying the iPhone maker's new measures on data collection and targeted ads will hurt small businesses.

The dispute between the tech giants centres on changes in the latest version of Apple's iOS operating software, which include a tracking transparency feature that Facebook claims will cripple its ability to serve up targeted ads.

Many of Facebook's advertisers are small businesses, and it says it relies on user data to generate ads in ways that make them more relevant and likely to make money.

"This is about control of the entire internet and how they attempt to control personalised advertising," Facebook vice president of business products Dan Levy said in a conference call.

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The social network took out full-page newspaper ads in major markets to make its case and launched a "Speak up for small businesses" web page.

Apple initially declined to comment on the Facebook onslaught.

At a data privacy conference in Brussels last week, Apple senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi predicted the new iOS features would cause drama.

"It's already clear that some companies are going to do everything they can to stop the App Tracking Transparency feature... and to maintain their unfettered access to people's data," Federighi said.

"We need the world to see those arguments for what they are: a brazen attempt to maintain the privacy-invasive status quo."

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Small business owners participated in the Facebook conference call to explain how targeted ads had helped them survive the pandemic -- and how Apple's move would adversely affect them.

"At the end of the day, we are telling a story, not selling a product," Hrag Kalebjian said of his family-run business Henry's House of Coffee in San Francisco.

"We are not a corporation, we are moms and dads," he added.

"We are busting our butts to make it online, and these changes coming are going to make it harder."

Monique Wilsondebriano, who founded Charleston Gourmet Burger Company in South Carolina with her husband, said there was "no possible way that our business could be where it is today without personalized ads -- no way, hands down." 


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