Commentary

Apple To Launch Operating System To Stop Tracking Browsing Habits

Thumbing its nose at Facebook, Apple is taking direct aim at the social giant’s Web-tracking tools.  

Among a slew of other news coming out of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), this week, the tech titan said its soon-to-launch macOS Mojave operating system will stop social media apps from tracking users’ open-Web browsing habits.

Specifically, what Apple’s calls an “Intelligent Tracking Prevention” feature will block data collection through social-media buttons and widgets.  

While it won’t be limited to Facebook, Apple clearly had the social mammoth in mind when it conceived of the change.

“Enhanced Intelligent Tracking Prevention helps block social media ‘Like’ or ‘Share’ buttons and comment widgets from tracking users without permission,” according to Apple.

When Mojave rolls out in the fall, Safari users will have to explicitly allow Facebook to share their data after being presented with an inquiring pop-up.

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The change deepens a growing divide between Apple and Facebook.

Indeed, since the Cambridge Analytica scandal erupted in March, Apple CEO Tim Cook has tried to paint Facebook as the personification of everything that’s wrong with Silicon Valley.  

Were Apple to sink to Facebook’s level, “We could make a ton of money if we monetized our customers … if our customers were our product,” Cook scoffed in a recent interview with MSNBC and Recode.

In response, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called Cook’s comments “extremely glib.”

“The reality here is that if you want to build a service that helps connect everyone in the world, then there are a lot of people who can’t afford to pay,” Zuckerberg recently told Vox’s Ezra Klein.

Of course, the forthcoming changes to Apple’s desktop operating system isn’t likely to impact Facebook’s bottom line.

That’s because fewer consumers use their desktop computers to access their Facebook accounts. By contrast, mobile ad revenue represented about 91% of total ad revenue for the first quarter of 2018, which was up from around 85% in the first quarter of 2017.

More troubling for Facebook is Apple’s new “App Limits” initiative, which will encourage users to set artificial time limits on particular apps. While App Limits isn’t limited to Facebook and its family of apps, Apple is clearly targeting the company with the effort.

In fact, when Apple unveiled App Limits at WWDC on Monday, it used Instagram to demonstrate its purpose.

“The ‘App Limits’ feature … could be even worse for Facebook than the browser data-sharing update,” said Michael Fauscette, Chief Research Officer at G2 Crowd. “Less time on Facebook will equate to less ad views which will mean less ad revenue.”

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