Apple Privacy Features Cost Social Media Giants Billions

November 02, 2021

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Apple has had a mixed track record on privacy lately, but this time some of their privacy features actually helps protect consumers against social media overreach in a big way.

Apple certainly has a mixed track record when it comes to privacy, albeit generally with more privacy wins than losses, but there's no doubt that Apple's new App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework is helping protect at least some user data from flowing to social media firms. A report by Lotame, an advertising technology company, suggests that Meta, YouTube, Twitter, and Snap lost $9.85 billion in potential revenue in the third and fourth quarters of 2021 alone due to this new feature, with Snapchat and Facebook being the most impacted. Twitter's spokesperson told the Financial Times that it was less impacted because their ads are better and rely less on tracking consumer habits, and more on context and branding.

Previously, The Financial Times reported that most users have opted out of tracking using the ATT framework, a requirement that forces developers to ask users if they wish to be tracked across other apps and websites. This may be supressing the stock price and societal impact of social media giants that rely on advertisements.

Meta, who relies very heavily on advertising revenue for their business model on Facebook and Instagram, has made the interesting argument that these types of privacy features might actually harm small businesses. Their argument boils down to that if enough people tap "Ask App Not to Track" when shown the prompt on initial app launch on newer versions of iOS and iPadOS, that app has considerably fewer data points to use to show them "personalized ads". This is an interesting point to consider when taking into account the second order effects and impacts of privacy features. Between things like this as well as Facebook's recent major outage, Mark Zuckerberg certainly isn't having the best month. Whatever else happens, protecting user privacy certainly always feels like a big win and remembering to frequently check your privacy settings is highly recommended.

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