Facebook’s response was not long in coming. Apple last week rolled out the new version of its iOS 14.5 mobile operating system. The latter allows iPhone users to choose whether or not they agree to be tracked by advertisers who want to offer them targeted advertising. This change was seen by Facebook as an attack on its business model. The social network further assures that this change threatens the very existence of a myriad of other companies, which use this data to sell their products.
In response, Facebook therefore sent the following message to all iPhone owners: “This version of iOS requires us to ask your permission to collect information related to this device to improve your advertising. […] We use data related to your activity on other apps and websites to show you more personalized advertising, keep Facebook free, help businesses that rely on advertising to reach their customers ”. The message also appears on Instagram.
“Keep Facebook Free”. According to Ashkan Soltani, an online privacy specialist and former White House adviser, the implicit threat is clear: these two social networks could become chargeable if they no longer have access to this treasure of data.
“Help keep Facebook free of charge” pic.twitter.com/mOB9WJpz9A
– ashkan soltani (@ ashk4n) April 30, 2021
The controversy is not new. In 2018, Mark Zuckerberg caused a stir by declaring, before Congress, that there would “always be a version of Facebook that would remain free”. This suggested that the group could launch a paid version, without advertising for example. In the summer of 2019, the social network revived the debate by removing from its home page a message announcing: “it’s free and it always will be”. The latter has been replaced by the promise of a “quick and easy” registration.
Despite these controversies, it is unlikely that Facebook will become paid, or even launch a paid version. This promise of perpetual free access could indeed be used in court by the competitors of the social network, if it decides one day to launch a paid version, adds Ashkan Soltani.