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Facebook attacks Apple in full-page newspaper ads over ad-tracking

We’ve seen Facebook attack Apple repeatedly of late, but the company is today really upping the ante by running full-page ads in at least three US newspapers.

The ads claim that Facebook is standing up to the iPhone maker on behalf of small businesses …

Update: Facebook has published a blog post with more details. It also says it will back Epic Games in its ongoing legal battle over the App Store.

Bloomberg reports, and The Verge got a copy of the ad, above.

Facebook Inc. attacked Apple Inc. in a series of full-page newspaper ads Wednesday, claiming the iPhone maker’s anticipated mobile software changes around data gathering and targeted advertising are bad for small businesses.

The ads, slated to run in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, carry the headline “We’re standing up to Apple for small businesses everywhere.” They home in on upcoming changes to Apple’s iOS 14 operating system that will curb the ability of companies like Facebook to gather data about mobile users and ply them with advertising.

The attack relates to the fact that iOS will next year force apps to ask for permission if they want to use ad-tracking. It’s expected that most users will refuse, which will mean apps won’t be able to easily offer personalized ads. Ads reflecting user interests earn more money for app developers than generic ads.

The change will significantly impact Facebook, as the ads it carries in the app will be worth less. The social network claims, however, that it doesn’t have its own interests in mind: it is instead standing up for small businesses.

The ad reads:

We’re standing up to Apple for small businesses everywhere

At Facebook, small business is at the core of our business. More than 10 million businesses use our advertising tools each month to find new customers, hire employees and engage with their communities.

Many in the small business community have shared concerns about Apple’s forced software update, which will limit businesses’ ability to run personalized ads and reach their customers effectively.

Forty-four percent of small to medium businesses started or increased their usage of personalized ads on social media during the pandemic, according to a new Deloitte study. Without personalized ads, Facebook data shows that the average small business advertiser stands to see a cut of over 60% in their sales for every dollar they spend.

While limiting how personalized ads can be used does impact larger companies like us, these changes will be devastating to small businesses, adding to the many challenges they face right now.

Small businesses deserve to be heard. We hear your concerns, and we stand with you. Join us at

This is an unconvincing tack the company has taken before. Back in October, CEO Mark Zuckerberg made the claim while warning investors of the likely hit to its own ad revenues.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took aim at Apple on Thursday over its plans to limit advertisers’ ability to track iPhone users, suggesting the proposed changes could hurt small businesses and, by extention, the broader economy.

During Facebook’s quarterly earnings call, Zuckerberg told investors that “actions planned by platform companies like Apple could have a meaningful negative effect on small businesses and economic recovery in 2021 and beyond” […]

Zuckerberg argued that “personalized advertising is helping small businesses find customers, grow their businesses and create jobs,” and that measures to limit targeted ads, such as those by Apple and lawmakers in the European Union, would hurt those businesses’ ability to reach customers.

It follows the company yesterday taking a swipe at Apple in a statement to Reuters about planned European legislation known as the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which would force Apple to offer a more level playing field between its own apps and third-party ones.

“We hope the DMA will also set boundaries for Apple,” a Facebook spokesman said. “Apple controls an entire ecosystem from device to app store and apps, and uses this power to harm developers and consumers, as well as large platforms like Facebook,” he said.

Some are suggesting that Facebook is trying to divert attention from its continuing privacy woes over its spyware app pitched as a free VPN service. Reuters reports that Australia plans to fine Facebook over the app.

Sources close to Apple tell us the company is not opposed to ad-tracking, but simply wants it to be transparent to users.

Photo: Tim Bennett on Unsplash

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Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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