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Facebook and Instagram Say They Need to Track You To Remain “Free of Charge”

Gizmodo Australia logo Gizmodo Australia 3/05/2021 Lauren Rouse

The latest iOS 14.5 update is one of the biggest software upgrades to Apple devices since iOS 14 rolled around. iPhone users can now do things like unlocking their phone while wearing a mask and changing the voice of Siri.

The feature receiving the most attention, however, is Apple's App Tracking Transparency. This feature allows users to choose whether to give permission to individual apps to track their activity for targeted advertising.

This has caused plenty of concern amongst giants like Facebook, which relies heavily on advertising revenue. To counter this new feature, Facebook has been working on a number of measures to convince users to allow app-tracking permissions.

Facebook and Instagram want to track you to remain "free"

Facebook's latest tactic taps into the idea of keeping Facebook and Instagram "free".

As reported by The Verge, a new pop-up notification in the iOS apps of Facebook and Instagram attempts to sway users with some of the reasons they should allow these apps to track them.

The pop-up has been gradually appearing to those who have updated their devices to the new iOS 14.5. The message explains that Facebook and Instagram use this data to:

  • Show you ads that are more personalised.
  • Help keep Facebook/Instagram free of charge.
  • Support businesses that rely on ads to reach customers.

https://twitter.com/ashk4n/status/1388270878870310912

Facebook and Instagram have always been free-to-use apps, with the Facebook slogan once claiming "it's free and always will be". This was quietly removed back in 2019, but the apps are yet to implement a paywall.

Now it seems Facebook and Instagram are using these notifications to motivate users into accepting app tracking as a way of keeping the apps free of charge.

According to a Facebook blog post, these prompts are "educational screens" that provide further context around how ad tracking is used on these social media apps.

As Apple has said that providing additional context is allowed, we will show an educational screen before presenting Apple’s prompt to help people make an informed decision about how their information is used. It provides more details about how we use data for personalized ads, as well as the ways we limit the use of activity other apps and websites send us if people don’t turn on this device setting. Our screen also lets people know that they’re seeing Apple’s prompt due to Apple’s requirements for iOS 14.5.

Declining app tracking permissions on Facebook and Instagram won't remove ads entirely but will provide fewer relevant ads.

Apple's App Tracking Transparency is toggled off by default, ensuring no app can track you without permission. If you'd like to know how to turn it on you can read more on that here.

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