Apple (AAPL) and Facebook’s (FB) already sour relationship is about to hit a new low. That’s because Apple announced on Thursday that its controversial user privacy feature will soon be coming to every iPhone on the planet capable of running the company’s latest version of iOS 14.
Called App Tracking Transparency, the feature, which will come as part of the next major update for iOS 14, is a setting that gives users the ability to opt into allowing apps to track their activity. By default, the setting is turned off.
“Awareness of industry practices like data tracking is only the first step toward a better privacy experience,” Apple said in a statement. “Users also need the features and controls to decide how their data is used, and by whom. Apple has led the industry by building privacy protections into every one of its products and services.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hinted at the coming changes to iOS 14 during Facebook’s quarterly earnings call, saying that Apple is now one of Facebook’s “biggest competitors.”
Zuckerberg later added, “Apple has every incentive to use its dominant platform position to interfere with how our apps work to favor their own, which they regularly do.”
App Tracking Transparency specifically deals with what is known as an identifier for advertisers, or IDFA. IDFA’s are unique to each user’s device, allowing digital advertisers to better understand how effective their campaigns are. It also blocks the ability for apps to track you via email address, IP address, or social login.
Apple originally announced App Tracking Transparency back at its WWDC 2020 event, saying it would come as part of iOS 14, but held the feature back to give app developers more time to implement the needed changes.
Facebook, meanwhile, has been running a full-court press against Apple’s move. Citing its own research, Facebook says giving users the ability to opt out of tracking using App Tracking Transparency could lead to a 50% drop in revenue for small businesses that use Facebook’s advertising services.
In December, Facebook took out full-page ads in newspapers including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal saying that App Tracking Transparency would crush small businesses that rely on IDFA for their advertising needs.
It’s worth noting that Facebook, along with Google, are blamed for swallowing the digital advertising industry at the expensive of media company’s like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.
Adding to the drama is the fact that Facebook is assisting Epic Games in its antitrust lawsuit against Apple. Facebook says it’s helping Epic, because it believes Apple is only using App Tracking Transparency as a means to force app developers to generate revenue by charging users for apps and in-app purchases rather than offering their apps for free and relying on in-app advertisements for revenue.
According to Facebook, having developers require users to pay for apps or make in-app purchases would benefit Apple, since it charges a 30% fee on the sale of all apps and in-app purchases made through its App Store.
Facebook’s move is an especially dangerous one for Apple, as the company is currently facing an investigation by the Justice Department into its App Store practices and whether they constitute an illegal monopoly. Facebook, meanwhile, is currently being sued by the Federal Trade Commission over allegations that it operates as an illegal monopoly.
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