Some Facebook employees side with Apple in privacy dispute

Some Facebook employees side with Apple in privacy dispute
A week ago we told you that Facebook was upset at Apple because of the latter's new privacy rules that give iOS users the opportunity to opt-out of having their data tracked by apps (like Facebook) for the purposes of having personalized ads delivered on their iPhones or iPads. Last week, Facebook ran two full-page ads against Apple in major newspapers like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post. In the ads, Facebook wrote that "Many in the small business community have shared concerns about Apple's forced software update, which will limit businesses' ability to run personalized ads and reach their customers effectively."

Some Facebook employees side with Apple in battle over privacy rights

 Apple CEO Tim Cook fired back on Twitter the next day tweeting that Apple believes that its customers should have the choice to determine how their data should be used. Cook added that Facebook can still continue to track iOS users across websites and apps just like before. The only difference is that with the App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14, Facebook will need to ask for user's permission first.

Today, BuzzFeed reported that not all Facebook employees are on the side of the company that pays their salaries. These employees called Facebook's campaign against Apple "self serving and hypocritical." BuzzFeed obtained audio of a presentation to workers along with some internal comments made by Facebook employees. Some said that Apple's move to force users to opt-in to have their data shared for ad tracking negatively impacts Facebook. Instead of complaining how Apple's new privacy rule affects the social media company, its employees say that Facebook is using small businesses as a shield. Dan Levy, Facebook’s vice president for ads said, "It feels like we are trying to justify doing a bad thing by hiding behind people with a sympathetic message."

Apple's plan to require users to opt-in to allow sharing data for ad tracking is a potential wet blanket for Facebook's thriving advertising business. The less data Facebook collects from iOS users, the less effective are the ads run through the social network. This could lead to lower revenue collected by Facebook. Analysts expect the firm to generate $80 billion in ad sales this year. Meanwhile, internal data shared with Facebook employees revealed that the company has never had so many advertisers. During the last six months of this year, Facebook will have had more than 12.6 million monthly active paying advertisers. That is up from the 11.9 million monthly advertisers Facebook had during the first half of this year. During the same time period, the weekly value of its ads rose to $2.3 billion, up 26%.

Facebook has plenty on the line and the question is whether their battle against Apple to protect small businesses is sincere. Facebook spokesperson Ashley Zandy told BuzzFeed News, "Since launching this effort we have heard from small businesses literally around the world who are worried about how these changes could hurt their businesses,” Facebook spokesperson Ashley Zandy told BuzzFeed News. “Because this is such a critical time for [small- and medium-sized businesses], we will continue to share those stories with the public and our employees."

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But Facebook's employees have some concerns about their company. At an internal meeting last week, one question that received plenty of votes from Facebook workers said, "Aren’t we worried that our stance protecting [small- and medium-sized businesses] will backfire as people see it as 'FB protecting their own business' instead?" Another employee said, "People want privacy. FB objecting here will be viewed with cynicism. Did we know this would be bad PR,  and decide to publish anyway?"

Facebook vice president of product marketing Graham Mudd kept in character with Facebook's alleged fear about the damage Apple's plan will do to small businesses. Mudd stated that "We're not trying to sweep that under the rug. We are, you know, a profitable, big company and we're going to get through this and adapt our products and so forth. But the real folks that are going to get hit by this are small businesses, and that's why we made them the focus of the message." Not every Facebook employee believes that this is the focus of Facebook's message at all. Some could not understand how Apple's privacy program would negatively affect small businesses.

One Facebook employee posted on the company's internal message board, "The only thing I’m hearing, again and again, is ‘this is bad for the businesses,' and I’d really like someone at the top to explicitly say, 'People are better off if they don’t know what we’re doing, if we don’t have to explain ourselves to them, if they don’t get a choice to opt in or opt out of our practices, if we obscure it as much as possible behind interesting features and then get them to accept surreptitious tracking on the back end as long as we downplay it. Are we the baddies?" Even Facebook's own employees aren't sure.

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