In the middle of an on-going privacy battle between Facebook and Apple, Facebook is launching a strategy designed to circumvent a planned Apple update that will severely impact Facebooks ability to track users, and consequently, to serve accurately targeted and relevant ad content to them.

The Apple update will force app developers to request permission to collect data for targeted advertising, something which any right thinking person would surely refuse. Faced with the prospect of advertising revenue being gutted, Facebook protested the roll-out (originally scheduled for September of last year), and Apple postponed it, while still being clear that it would definitely be implemented.

No date has yet been confirmed, but March this year has been rumoured to be the time.

Facebook Workaround

In an attempt to minimise the fallout, Facebook has started testing a pop-up for some users, asking them for permission to track their activity, in order to be able to show relevant ads to them. No word has yet emerged on how successful the tests have been, so it remains to be seen whether it goes into widespread use.

In the meanwhile, Facebook has complained that Apple is using the privacy issue as a way to shut out competitors, and is alleged to be preparing an anti-trust law suite against them. (In what may well be one of the most colossal ironies of a decade already replete with them.)

Facebook claims that this is a precursor to Apple entering the advertising industry, and in fairness, I would not be surprised if this was indeed the case.

Impact On Tracking

Make no mistake, this change by Apple will have a significant impact not only on Facebook’s targeting, but also on their ability to report back to advertisers regarding the performance of their campaigns.

Effectively, any data generated by users of Apples iOS 14 will no longer be reported on. And not only is Apple one of the leading device manufacturers, but they “co-incidentally” announced a vulnerability and “recommended” that all users upgrade to the latest iOS 14 version as soon as possible.

There are ways that the reporting shortfall can be mitigated, and we’re working on implementing them all, but the reality is that this will effect far more than just Facebook’s ability to target, and there will inevitably be fallout from that.