Facebook and Instagram for iOS have been updated with new pop-ups that call out Apple’s new privacy feature in iOS 14.5, released last week. The pop-ups try to shed light on the effects of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature which lets you tell apps not to track you across services from third-parties, including Facebook and Instagram.
A huge part of Facebook’s business model are ads, and they rely heavily on a user’s IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers), a random code that assigns a user personality traits and interests. If a company like Facebook gets a hold of your IDFA, they can present more personalized advertisements since it tells them what you like and don’t. Apple’s approach with ATT is to let you refuse apps access to your IDFA, and every app that uses it has to display a pop-up giving you the choice of being tracked or not.
What Facebook’s doing here is providing more context into why it wants your data and why iOS 14.5 can severely hinder the experience of both the Facebook and Instagram app. It also claims that if you keep tracking on, you’ll help keep the apps “free of charge.”
This is an interesting tactic, one that while isn’t surprising is a bit unnerving. Facebook has for years been hinting that a future version of Facebook may not be free, but there will also be an underlying version of the app that won’t cost anything. Mark Zuckerberg hinted at a potential paid version of Facebook during his testimony to Congress in 2018 by saying “there will always be a version of Facebook that is free.”
It’s unclear if Apple’s App Tracking Transparency will do enough damage that Facebook and Instagram have to introduce premium version sooner than later, but as for now, it’s all just a bitter battle between Facebook and Apple over privacy and data use.