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Facebook Employees Privately Displeased With Anti-Privacy Campaign Against Apple

Facebook Employees Privately Displeased With Anti-Privacy Campaign Against Apple

Facebook employees are not happy with their company’s barrage of public attacks over Apple’s new privacy measures. The employees are privately expressing their displeasure with the campaign in a series of messages on Facebook’s private message boards, says BuzzFeed News.

Facebook last week launched an attack on Apple’s iOS 14 privacy changes, running a series of full-page newspaper ads in the New York TimesWall Street Journal, and Washington Post, featuring the headline “We’re standing up to Apple for small businesses everywhere.”

Facebook says the changes, which are related to data gathering and targeted advertising, are bad for small businesses.

Apple has recently made a number of privacy changes that limit the ability of companies that glean user info and sell it to advertisers and use it to target ads (like Facebook). As of iOS 14, Apple changed the “Identifier for Advertisers” – which is used by many companies like Facebook for ad targeting – an opt-in feature. The move allows users more transparency when it comes to being tracked on websites and in apps.

Users can also disable the option for apps to track them at all in the Privacy portion of the iOS 14 Settings app. Even if the user opts to turn this feature off, apps must still inform the user and ask for permission before tracking them across apps and websites owned by other parties. (Facebook will track users across the web, even when the Facebook website or app is closed.) This is a severe blow to the silent ad-related tracking that has become prevalent over the years.

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg earlier this year said the anti-ad tracking feature could cut the Audience Network Ad revenue companies earn through Facebook by as much as 50%.

In a series of internal comments from one of Facebook’s private message boards and audio of a presentation to Facebook workers, it is revealed that many employees are uncomfortable with the angle Facebook is using to attack Apple’s privacy changes.

“It feels like we are trying to justify doing a bad thing by hiding behind people with a sympathetic message,” one engineer wrote in response to an internal post about the campaign from Dan Levy, Facebook’s vice president for ads.

Ahead of an internal meeting to explain the rationale of the campaign against Apple, Facebook employees asked and voted up several questions that focused on the consequences of the campaign on Facebook’s public image.

Aren’t we worried that our stance protecting [small- and medium-sized businesses] will backfire as people see it as “Facebook protecting their own business” instead?

People want “privacy,” Facebook objecting here will be viewed with cynicism. Did we know this would be bad PR, and decide to publish anyway?

How do we pick a message that looks less self-serving?

Facebook vice president of product marketing Graham Mudd responded by saying that the company has been “really clear” that Apple’s changes do “have a financial impact on us,” in addition to small businesses:

We’re not trying to sweep that under the rug. We are, you know, a profitable, big company and we’re going to get through this and adapt our products and so forth. But the real folks that are going to get hit by this are small businesses, and that’s why we made them the focus of the message.

The presentation failed to convince Facebook employees as to the virtue of Facebook’s anti-Apple campaign, as they failed to see how Apple’s changes would negatively affect small businesses. One employee pointed out that Apple’s privacy protections help prevent”malicious actors” from tracking people:

We’re not going to… be the only ones that should be allowed to track people without their consent — any company can do that, even smaller startups and malicious actors.

Another asked if Facebook was the bad guy in this situation:

The only thing I’m hearing, again and again, is “this is bad for the businesses,” and I’d really like someone at the top to explicitly say, “People are better off if they don’t know what we’re doing, if we don’t have to explain ourselves to them, if they don’t get a choice to opt-in or opt-out of our practices, if we obscure it as much as possible behind interesting features and then get them to accept surreptitious tracking on the back end as long as we downplay it.”

Facebook spokesperson Ashley Zandy responded to BuzzFeed News, claiming that small businesses are Facebook’s priority:

Since launching this effort we have heard from small businesses literally around the world who are worried about how these changes could hurt their businesses. Because this is such a critical time for [small- and medium-sized businesses], we will continue to share those stories with the public and our employees.

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