Apple CEO Tim Cook says targeted Facebook ads are ‘manipulating’ people as he defends privacy update


Tim Cook has defended Apple’s latest privacy update, saying it’s necessary because people are being ‘surveilled’ online by the apps they use – even as companies including Facebook said the new rules could seriously harm their businesses.

The new update, part of the iOS14 operating system, will ask users to approve ‘tracking’ for each app they download. Such tracking allows apps, like Facebook, to deliver targeted advertisements.

Those ads in large part pay the bills for Facebook and other app makers, publishers and small businesses. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and others say Apple’s moves are self-serving and will help cement its dominance in the mobile space, while hammering their profits.

But Cook says the change is necessary and argues targeted advertising is ‘manipulating’ people and being served to their devices without their explicit permission. 

Just by downloading an app, he contends, people are making themselves an unwitting target for tracking.

Such tracking takes note of sites a person has visited, so for instance, if you’ve been searching for shoes, you might be served up an advertisement for sneakers the next time you open the Facebook or Instagram app.

Apple’s new settings will make users decide to ‘Allow Tracking’ or ‘Ask App Not to Track’. 

Tim Cook, pictured, has said targeted Facebook adverts are 'manipulating' people amid his ongoing battle with Mark Zuckerberg over privacy in Silicon Valley

Tim Cook, pictured, has said targeted Facebook adverts are ‘manipulating’ people amid his ongoing battle with Mark Zuckerberg over privacy in Silicon Valley

The iPhone update will make it more difficult for companies to run targeted, personalized commercials on people's phones and iPads

The iPhone update will make it more difficult for companies to run targeted, personalized commercials on people’s phones and iPads

When probed on the move Cook told GQ in a recent interview that as the app ecosystem has developed, ‘what has happened is the tracking sort of without our consent.’

He says he ‘doesn’t mind’ tracking with consent, but says ‘too many people are just tracking [without our consent], and people either are not aware of it, or they’re not aware of the extent of it.’

The company also will be debuting new ‘privacy nutrition labels’ that will detail app’s privacy practices and what they do with user’s data.

‘With the privacy nutrition label, we’re just trying to give the user more facts so they can make an educated decision of whether they want to download this app or not. It’s not aimed at anyone. It’s about giving the user more power. ‘

Facebook, meanwhile, argues that while the update will hurt its business, it could destroy that of smaller online retailers who rely on personalized ads to find customers.

And Zuckerberg says that the new update will drive people away from Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, which it also owns, and towards Apple’s iMessage, which is built-in on all of its products. He has called the move ‘self-serving’ and claims it will harm not only Facebook but small businesses too.

The update, which will affect iPhones and iPads, also comes at a time when tech companies are under fire from some people – from across the political spectrum – for making decisions that encroach on people’s free expression.   

Apple recently pulled right wing social media site Parler from its app store. 

Cook went on Fox News to defend that decision, saying: ‘We have rules and regulations and we just ask that people abide by those.’

When asked if he was now ‘deciding’ what happens to people’s data, too, with the iOs update, Cook replied: ‘I don’t want to decide, to be clear. Because I think that you and I may make a different choice. And what we want to do is supply people the tools so that they can make the decision themselves.’

‘That’s opposed to the environment right now, where companies are deciding.’  

Cook says ‘the tools that are being used to develop a 360 degree view of people’s lives are the same tools that are used to target them to form extremist groups, or to organize to ransack the Capitol, or whatever the situation may be’.

He added: ‘These are not separate kinds of things. They’re the same thing. They’re manipulating people’s behavior.’

He told GQ that the ‘current system is not sustainable’, arguing that users ‘don’t like it. 

Cook added: ‘We’re getting a lot of feedback from users that they want the power to make a choice.  

‘I don’t think people have to change the business model, the business model being that ads support a product. I think that’s very achievable. 

‘It’s just that what I think is probably not going to be achievable is doing that without users agreeing to do it, because I think at some point governments are going to step in and regulate that.’

 

Apple say the new rollout is to protect consumers who never know just how much of their information is being exploited

Apple say the new rollout is to protect consumers who never know just how much of their information is being exploited

Cook last week claimed that Facebook’s personalized ads cause real world violence. 

Facebook argue that while it will hurt its business, it could destroy that of smaller online retailers who rely on personalized ads for profit.  

Zuckerberg says that the new update will drive people away from Facebook messenger and WhatsApp and towards Apple’s iMessage, which is built in on all of its products. 

The move threatens Facebook’s bottom line, along with that of countless others. 

Dave Grimaldi, the executive vice president for public policy at the Interactive Advertising Bureau, told Wired: ‘When an app generates ad revenue, Apple doesn’t get any of it. But when it sells a subscription or in-app purchase, Apple gets a commission.’  

Facebook is fighting the update, arguing Apple is only pretending to operate in the interests of consumers when in fact the move would significantly boost their profits because it would drive people further away from non-Apple apps and products. Facebook CEO Zuckerberg, main, has called the move 'self-serving'

Facebook is fighting the update, arguing Apple is only pretending to operate in the interests of consumers when in fact the move would significantly boost their profits because it would drive people further away from non-Apple apps and products. Facebook CEO Zuckerberg, main, has called the move ‘self-serving’

Last Thursday, Cook was taking part in a virtual conference about privacy when he made the remarks about Facebook and violence. 

He didn’t name them, nor did he give examples of the ‘violence’ the ad model causes, but said: ‘If a business is built on misleading users, on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, it does not deserve our praise. 

‘It deserves scorn. It is long past time to stop pretending that this approach doesn’t cover the costs of polarization, of lost trust, of violence. 

‘A social dilemma cannot be allowed to cause a social catastrophe.’  

Facebook and Apple both had bumper profit years. 

Facebook’s profits soared by 53 per cent last year compared to 2019 and Apple reported $100 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Apple’s ‘AppTracking Transparency’ update that will eviscerate online ads 

Apple’s update essentially forces users to consent to being targeted ads by businesses rather than automatically receiving them as a result of their browsing history. 

It gives consumers more control over what types of ads they are served but has the potential to knee-cap businesses that rely on this type of advertising to make money. 

The update is part of the iOs 14 software update that is due sometime in the spring.  

Apple describes it in the following way: ‘Starting with the upcoming beta update, you’ll need to receive the user’s permission through the AppTrackingTransparency framework to track them or access their device’s advertising identifier.

‘Tracking refers to the act of linking user or device data collected from your app with user or device data collected from other companies’ apps, websites, or offline properties for targeted advertising or advertising measurement purposes. 

‘Tracking also refers to sharing user or device data with data brokers.’

Tracking for ads does not mean geographically tracking users through their devices. 

What it does, is allows businesses to see what types of products they are interested in based on their own searches, and serve them content that matches. 

Apple was going to roll out the update sooner but after backlash from Silicon Valley, the company delayed it to give titans like Facebook time to prepare. 



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Written by Bourbiza Mohamed

A technology enthusiast and a passionate writer in the field of information technology, cyber security, and blockchain

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