iOS 14.5 Challenges Google and Facebook

The 14.5 update provides new features and some other nice stuff, but that’s not what this post is about. Have you heard about the battle being fought between Apple, Google, and Facebook? Basically, Apple has decided that you should have the right to know, and control, what information any app or company can access to "track" you "across apps and websites owned by other companies" in order to "deliver personalized ads to you." They call this app tracking transparency.

Tracking refers to the linking device or, user data collected from your app with user or device data collected from other companies' apps, websites, or offline properties. This is used for targeted advertising or advertising measurement purposes. Tracking also refers to sharing user or device data with data brokers. 

In response, Facebook has placed full-page ads in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post trying to convince us that this will harm small businesses and consumers alike. Keep in mind that although they have been most vocal about the impact that this will have, it will most definitely hurt them Google, and not just their clients.

We have mixed feelings about this. We are an advertising agency; we place ads on Facebook and Google. Both of these companies use the information they track with their apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Google search, Chrome, YouTube, and Waze, to name a few. Facebook tends to know more about you than Google because you share your engagement, marriage, divorce, birthday, friendships, and interests on their app. FB then uses this information to allow advertisers to target you with ads based on this information.

For example, we have a dog food company as a client. Their ads are targeted at dog owners. The information that they have about you allows them to have those ads appear in your feed making the ad more relevant and valuable. This is where our quandary comes in; It’s our job to accurately target ads to people that might be interested in a product and or service. However, I also appreciate the fact that as a dog owner I do not see ads for cat food. Remember, it’s the ads that generate the revenue which allow companies like Facebook and Google to exist. Regardless of your new privacy settings, you will still receive ads but, seeing ads for who you are, and what your interests are might be less annoying.

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As an individual that values his data privacy, I have always been concerned about how much these companies know about me. The fact that every Android-based phone is feeding Google with data, I refuse to give them that kind of access to my life. Our phones are with us 24/7 and, they know where you are, who you are with (if they have android phones or Google apps on their phone). So, I applaud Apple for taking it one step further and providing me with the ability to say yes or no to sharing data, and deciding what data to share with whom.

This brings us to those “privacy agreements” that most never read anyway and, just say yes to. Most apps have your consent to being tracked across the apps you use, the websites you visit, where and on what you are spending your money, and then match that data to your friends to create what are called “rich profiles” defining who they think you are.

Let’s be clear that Google and Facebook do not sell your data to third parties, but they provide tools to advertisers and pretty precisely target you based on what they know about your digital behaviors. That being said, as an advertiser, I do not get to see your name, address, or other personal information. However, I can target you based on everything else they know about you.

Another consideration is the security of that data. As we know Facebook had provided incredible access to Cambridge Analytica and there was a major breach of privacy, and it is believed that personal identification was part of what got out.

The bottom line is we will all have to draw our own conclusion as to whether we think this is a good thing or, a bad thing. I see it from both sides, I have to, I am both a consumer and an advertiser. But, at least I am aware of the digital dilemmas and decisions we must make, and how they might impact us all.