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Facebook Says Data Needed For Platform To Stay Free: Just The Facts

May 14, 2021 Sarah Cavill

In response to Apple-implemented IDFA (identifier for advertisers) changes, Facebook and Instagram added new prompts, asking users to provide “permission to track some data from this device,” and stating the activity information will be used to personalize ads, support advertisers and “help keep Facebook [and Instagram] free of charge.”

Why Is Facebook Saying They Need To Track Users To Stay Free?

facebook IDFA

Facebook is concerned about the impact IDFA changes could have on its advertisers’ abilities to target and personalize ads, a view Facebook has expressed since Apple first announced the changes. In order for advertisers to have time to adjust to the IDFA changes and create contextual and effective prompts within the new iOS 14.5,  Apple initially delayed the IDFA changes. Facebook has taken that time to craft the messaging encouraging users to opt in.

Facebook explains, “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.”

In addition, Facebook positions the idea of sharing activity data as a way users can support small businesses. In a blog post titled “Speaking Up for Small Businesses,” the tech giant said “Apple’s new iOS 14 policy will have a harmful impact on many small businesses that are struggling to stay afloat and on the free internet that we all rely on more than ever.” Facebook argues that they are able to offer privacy and the personalized targeting brands rely on. “Apple’s new prompt suggests there is a tradeoff between personalized advertising and privacy; when in fact, we can and do provide both.”

Is Facebook Going To Start Charging For Its Service Due To IDFA Changes?

Possibly, but not likely. The messaging in iOS 14.5 could be seen as a step in that direction, if in fact the IDFA changes are so dramatic that Facebook loses significant revenues. Facebook has occasionally hinted that it may in the future charge a fee for using either Facebook or Instagram, but it’s unlikely Facebook would ever have a fully subscriber-based platform, with Mark Zuckerberg indicating in 2018 that “a ‘version’ of Facebook” will always be free. However, if Apple’s plans to continue pushing privacy updates dramatically impact Facebook advertising revenue, paid user options may come to the forefront.

How Could Advertisers Be Impacted By The Facebook Prompt?

For the most effective behavioral targeting, data is essential, and many advertisers, big and small, will likely be pleased that Facebook is playing hardball. As for the overall impact of the IDFA changes, it’s early days, and many brands are still in wait and see mode, approaching the IDFA changes as just the most recent privacy update, and relying on consumers to opt in when given the chance for more customized ads.

Meanwhile, for Facebook, convincing its 2.7 billion monthly active users worldwide that their data is the engine behind keeping Facebook afloat for free could be an effective way to continue gathering what Facebook believes is essential information for targeted, personalized ads.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Senior Marketing Communications Writer, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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