Facebook has accused Apple not of giving users’ more choice, but of skewing the market to its own advantage.
Apple said it will introduce over the coming weeks a new privacy notification that will enable users to prevent companies such as Facebook from tracking their activity on other apps and websites.
The update will be included in iOS 14.5 making it mandatory for iPhone apps to gain the device owner’s permission before collecting this additional data.
Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature is being released just as the iPhone-maker and Facebook are on course for a series of clashes.
Apple responded by saying it welcomed in-app advertising and was not prohibiting tracking, “simply requiring each app to obtain explicit user consent in order to track so that it will be more transparent and under user control”.
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Speaking virtually at a conference in Brussels, Mr Cook said: “We can no longer turn a blind eye to a theory of technology that says all engagement is good engagement.
“At a moment of rampant disinformation and conspiracy theories juiced by algorithms… it’s long past time to stop pretending that this approach doesn’t come with a cost – of polarisation, of lost trust and, yes, of violence.”
Part of the issue, said Mr Cook, was that smartphone apps contain too many trackers which “surveil and identify users across apps, watching and recording their behaviour” often without users knowing that this is taking place.
“Technology does not need vast troves of personal data, stitched together across dozens of websites and apps, in order to succeed. Advertising existed and thrived for decades without it. We’re here today because the path of least resistance is rarely the path of wisdom,” he added.
“If a business is built on misleading users, on data exploitation, on choices that are no choices at all, then it does not deserve our praise. It deserves reform.
“Will the future belong to the innovations that make our lives better, more fulfilled and more human?
“Or will it belong to those tools that prize our attention to the exclusion of everything else, compounding our fears and aggregating extremism, to serve ever-more-invasively-targeted ads over all other ambitions?”
“Free apps and the entrepreneurs and creators who build them… rely on advertising to make money, and in turn, provide free content to people – from your morning news to the game you play in line at the coffee shop to that comedy show you watched on Friday night,” explained Facebook.
“Apple has every incentive to use their dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps and other apps work, which they regularly do,” Mr Zuckerberg told investors. “They say they are doing this to help people, but the moves clearly track their competitive interests.”