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Facebook attacks Apple over upcoming iPhone privacy measures

Facebook claims Apple's upcoming privacy change will hurt small businesses, but Apple argues the move gives users control over the personal data collected by apps.

Facebook has launched a website and taken out newspaper ads aggressively criticizing Apple's planned privacy changes in the iPhone's operating system.

At issue is an upcoming iOS update requiring iPhone users to opt in before apps can track their behavior across other companies' apps and websites. Apple plans to implement the policy in early 2021.

Facebook sees the requirement as a threat to targeted ads, which are a significant revenue generator. Facebook advertising executive Dan Levy laid out the company's objections in a blog post.

Developers of free apps are dependent on ad revenue heavily tied to personalization. Therefore, a reduction in the latter could force developers to charge for subscriptions or in-app transactions to remain profitable. Apple would collect between 15% and 30% of that money.

"Apple's update changes mean more money for Apple, and less free stuff for people," Levy wrote.

Facebook also positioned the move as injurious to small businesses, launching a website on Wednesday intended to share business owners' complaints with the change. Facebook claimed targeted ads based on personal data helps businesses reach specific audiences at a reasonable cost.

In a statement, Apple said it saw the matter as a consumer choice issue. It said Facebook would not have to alter its practices with the change, only give users the option to participate in them.

"Users should know when their data is being collected and shared across other apps and websites -- and they should have the choice to allow that or not," the company said.

Apple said its tracking control feature applies to all developers, including itself.

Constellation Research analyst Liz Miller said Facebook's criticisms would hold more water if the company had shown more regard for privacy in the past. Instead, it has built an advertising system dependent on a "loose privacy policy at the device and OS level," she said.

"The real profits Facebook is looking to protect are Facebook's," Miller added.

Apple has emphasized consumer privacy in its recent messaging. Earlier this month, it began requiring App Store developers to put a privacy notice on their apps' pages. The label informs users what types of data an app collects on them before they download it.

Apple has likened those notices to the "nutrition facts" labels on food -- a standardized, quick reference for consumers.

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