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  • John Walker

Facebook vs. Apple: The Discussion About Advertising Privacy Just Got Loud

The privacy feud brewing between Facebook and Apple has reached full boil. But this spat is just part of much larger privacy issues we need to consider.

Facebook vs. Apple on User Privacy

Here’s the deal. Facebook (and Instagram) tracks the heck out of users then uses that data to target ads. And now Apple has begun to tell iPhone users that they’re being tracked by any apps deployed on their phones and asking them to opt in to that tracking. If your iPhone has the latest software (iOS 14), you'll see this notification.

Apple’s Tim Cook says, “users should have the choice over the data that is being collected about them and how it’s used.” And Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg says tracking is what enables to offer a free, ad-supported platform. This CNet post explains it in more detail.

What’s the Bigger Issue?

The bigger issue is that citizens, consumers, you and me, are getting concerned about being constantly tracked in our increasingly digitized world. Our computers track us, so do our phones and our smart speakers. And that’s just the beginning. The internet-of-things with its digital thermostats, health monitors, and wearables is where it's all going. Forget tracking browser activities, we’re talking about tracking our biological activities.

So, while this “conversation” between Apple and Facebook is focused on tracking for the purpose of advertising, the bigger issue is about our privacy in general. How much tracking are we comfortable with? And, are the benefits worth the sacrifice?

That’s a big discussion that I won’t cover here. Instead let me jump to this issue in the context of marketing and business.

What about Advertisers and Business People?

The first time I saw the depth and precision of Facebook’s ad targeting, I was amazed. And the advertising results it delivered were the best I’d ever seen. And that’s all thanks to user tracking. But the more I saw how Facebook tracked users, the more it made me uncomfortable.

My opinion now is that marketers and brands must express their values, not just with their products and messaging, but also in how they reach customers and build those relationships. And using Facebook for advertising, or choosing not to, is increasingly an expression of those values.

So for me it’s not about Apple versus Facebook. Their argument simply shows they’re on different sides of a commercial issue- they have different ways of making money. The issue for me, is how I want to express my own values in how I do business. And for me, deeply intrusive tracking crosses the line.

This post was written by John Walker, Principal Consultant at J. Walker Marketing. Contact John to discuss your marketing challenges.

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