Facebook uses scare tactic to get iOS users to opt-in for tracking

Facebook uses scare tactic to get iOS users to opt-in for tracking
Researcher Ashkan Soltani disseminated a tweet on Friday about Facebook's plan to take on Apple's App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature. ATT sends out a prompt from third-party apps asking whether users want to opt-in to being tracked through their travels on other apps and online. This information is collected and used to send out personal advertisements and also to collect personal data.

Facebook is trying to get users to chose to be tracked with the App Tracking Transparency feature

The prompts just started rolling out last Monday with the release of iOS 14.5 and while the data might be too early to be considered significant, 47% of those responding to a survey by appfigures said that they chose to allow themselves to be tracked by third party apps. Before the update dropped, estimates called for 32% of users to allow tracking while 68% were forecast to opt-out.

When Apple first announced that it was going to launch App Tracking Transparency, one company in particular went totally bonkers. Facebook published two newspaper ads complaining that ATT would kill small businesses since it would reduce the reach that these firms get from online advertising. Of course, let us not forget that Facebook took in $84 billion last year from online ads.

Do you really believe that Facebook was concerned about the future of small businesses with ATT enabled? The social media firm and its beleaguered Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg were probably more concerned about the future of Facebook; the latter is an advertising company more than it is a social media app.

Some companies have been trying to find ways to gently guide iOS users to allow themselves to be tracked even though Apple has a number of rules and guidelines that companies must follow when creating their ATT pre-prompt and prompt, or face getting booted out of the App Store. One amazingly blatant prompt gives users just one choice-to allow themselves to be tracked.

What Facebook is doing, according to Soltani, is using "scare tactics" to get Facebook and Instagram users to choose to be tracked. Images of pre-prompt notifications that are reportedly being considered make it sound that by withholding permission to be tracked, both social media apps might have to charge users for access.

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The text on Facebook's and Instagram's pre-prompt pages say, "This version of iOS requires us to ask for permission to track some data from this device to improve your ads. Facebook and Instagram go on to say that thanks to the information it receives from tracking users, it shows ads that are more personalized while keeping Facebook (and Instagram) free of charge." The insinuation is crystal clear: if you decide to disable tracking, you eventually might have to pay to use Facebook or Instagram.

Last week we told you about the guidelines that Apple had developed for ATT prompts, such as banning those that bribed users to allow tracking. While it is not yet known whether Facebook/Instagram will use these exact screens, if they do, both would seem to be permissible under Apple's rules.

We can see where Facebook might simply be explaining a business decision that it could have to make. On the other hand, Black's Law Dictionary says that a Bribe is "the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions of an official, or other person, in charge of a public or legal duty." Facebook has not made a definitive offering, but as we said, the insinuation is clear.

Back in March, Facebook CEO Zuckerberg reversed his stance, saying that Facebook might actually benefit from ATT and stated that "It’s possible that we may even be in a stronger position if Apple’s changes encourage more businesses to conduct more commerce on our platforms." In other words, ATT could end up delivering more traffic to Facebook's platforms.

However, it appears that Facebook has reverted back to its adversarial position in a note to advertisers written last week and obtained by Insider. The note says, "As more people upgrade to iOS 14.5, opted-out users will automatically be excluded from certain targetable audiences, which may result in decrease of audience sizes."

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