Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Facebook Educates About App Tracking Transparency

Sami Fathi (also: Ashkan Soltani):

As a way to convince users to enable tracking across other apps and websites, Facebook is deploying the tactic of telling users that they must enable tracking as part of the App Tracking Transparency framework in iOS 14.5 if they want to help keep Facebook and Instagram “free of charge.”


In an updated blog post, Facebook calls this updated prompt an “educational screen” that will “help people make an informed decision about how their information is used.” Instagram, owned by Facebook, will show a similar prompt to users asking them to enable tracking to “Help keep Instagram free of charge.”

John Gruber:

That’d be just adorable if Facebook and Instagram started charging users because of mean old Apple. I’m sure that’s really on the table and this isn’t utterly shameless.

Even if Facebook were serious, Apple would prohibit that, too.

Sami Fathi (tweet):

Apple says that it will ban and reject apps on the App Store that attempt to offer users monetary incentives to enable tracking through App Tracking Transparency (ATT), one of many measures the company is taking to ensure developers follow through with the new framework.


Following ATT’s release, Apple also updated its Human Interface Guidelines with a new section titled “Accessing User Data.” In this section, offering a mix of new and previously known information, Apple outlines the design policies that all apps must follow when they attempt to ask a user for their permission to access personal data, device capabilities such as microphone and camera, and consent to track them across apps and websites.

Nick Heer:

You think Facebook’s threat of having to pay to use its services is bad? Wait until you see what Canada’s own Weather Network has cooked up.

Francisco Tolmasky:

These tracking dialogs don’t make sense in iOS. Unlike permissions dialogs, you don’t get an obvious direct feature out of it, like the camera. Seems like Apple should just disallow tracking, not create a contest to see what tricks companies come up with to get you to click it.

This is kind of a microcosm of all @AppStore policy, which has to ride this absurd line where Apple doesn’t actually get to implement what it really wants, but the experience still suffers for it.

Jun Harada (via Sebastiaan de With):

[Signal] created a multi-variant targeted ad designed to show you the personal data that Facebook collects about you and sells access to. The ad would simply display some of the information collected about the viewer which the advertising platform uses. Facebook was not into that idea.

Facebook is more than willing to sell visibility into people’s lives, unless it’s to tell people about how their data is being used. Being transparent about how ads use people’s data is apparently enough to get banned; in Facebook’s world, the only acceptable usage is to hide what you’re doing from your audience.

Ken Harris:

As with iOS 14.5, the most damning evidence against @Facebook isn’t that they collect data. It’s that they insist on hiding the extent of the data they collect.

It’s an asymmetric relationship, and the corporation wants to exploit that. Does that ever end well for the public?


Update (2021-05-06): Facebook says that “this is a stunt by Signal” and that it never rejected the ads or banned their account (via Timothy Buck).


We absolutely did try to run these. The ads were rejected, and Facebook disabled our ad account. These are real screenshots, as Facebook should know.

Joe Osborne:

These screenshots are from early March, when the ad account was briefly disabled for a few days due to an unrelated payments issue.

The ads themselves were never rejected as they were never set by Signal to run. The ad account has been available since early March, and the ads that don’t violate our policies could have run since then.

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