Do you know what it is to be so tired of something that even the very expression of said tiredness is already too exhausting for you? Kind of like saying you’re too tired to even say how tired you are. Well, it’s thinking about the relationship between Meta, Facebook and privacy and, I’m sure it’s happening to you too, I’m starting to feel a bit like Bill Murray in Trapped in Time (AKA Groundhog Day), except that, unfortunately, I don’t share the space-time loop with Andie McDowell.
I am not going to enumerate, again, the endless list of occasions in which Facebook has compromised the privacy of its users, because surely you know them as well as I do. On this occasion, I will focus on iOS 14.5, the version of the iPhone operating system released by Apple back in April 2021. And what was so special about this update? App Tracking Transparency (ATT), that is, the obligation for apps to ask users for permission to use information generated by the tracking functions of other apps. Already from the very announcement of this function, Meta (then Facebook), began to express its deep disagreement with this function, even going so far as to consider some kind of “painful” attack (metaphorically, that is to say) to those from Cupertino, which for not a few people was a sign of confidence in ATT.
A little less than a year ago we finally learned the impact that ATT was having for Facebook and, as expected from the first minute, the blow was quite strong. And it is that despite the insistence by Meta, Apple was clear from the beginning that it was not going to back down, and fears were confirmed with more than remarkable economic losses in the second quarter of 2021. The mistake, however, was thinking that Meta and Facebook would sit idly by.
The most interesting thing is that Meta, in response to the demand, has admitted that it does indeed monitor user activity with this method, although it also emphasizes that, as it claims, it does not collect user data in this way. This is a pretty fine line when you consider that, in theory, you could collect this information if you wanted to, so it will be interesting to see how this holds up in court, in terms of the legal path of the lawsuit that, in a moment, it could become collective.
On the other hand, if apps are found to be tracking the user after the user has requested not to be tracked, Apple can take extreme measures. And at this point, although it was never officially confirmed, it is known that Apple designed ATT thinking, not exclusively but largely, of Facebook. Now, if Meta is found to have bypassed the limitations of ATT in iOS, ignoring the security preferences of users, Apple could ban their apps from the App Store, something that would undoubtedly be a huge setback for Facebook and Instagram.