Facebook Vs. Apple: The Data Fight Of Our Generation

Everything you need to know about Facebook’s data fight over Apple’s iOS 14 update, and whether consequences will affect your brand’s ads.


Let’s be honest – third party data makes for some pretty dry subject matter, even in the midst of a pandemic! But when it involves two industry giants, going head-to-head over human rights, surely that spices things up a bit? Data is what fuels the efficiency of algorithms; but not just any data, it’s your personal data that really gets an algorithm excited. An algorithm (how many times can we write that in this piece), is only as good as the data that feeds it. And right now, the hand feeding Facebook’s algorithms, is in short supply.

Apple’s iOS 14 update is here and Facebook are not happy about it. Actually, that’s an understatement – they’re bricking it – and here’s why. Apple believe that users should feel safe across the internet, and that apps collecting personal data with complete abandon, should be fully transparent about it. As a result, the new iOS update has hit iPhone users with an influx of unavoidable pop-up messages, appearing every time they’re using apps that track their personal data, which FYI, is most of them. Instead of burying the data-mining notification in a long list of T&Cs, the design template clearly asks users to ‘Allow tracking OR Ask App Not to Track’. This appears every time an app opens; whether that be Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or any app that uses 3rd party data. It just so happens that the majority of apps relying on 3rd party data consumption for revenue are owned by Facebook.

The misuse of personal data has been on Apple’s agenda for a while, so it’s not as if data mining is “new” news (cough, Cambridge Analytica scandal). And the notifications themselves certainly seem like something users could just ‘turn off’ if they wanted to. However, Facebook disagrees, and are fighting against the update aggressively. They’re claiming it will make advertising less efficient and less effective for brands, if users opt out of allowing their data to be tracked. Essentially, Facebook reckon Apple have made it harder for brands to reach their audiences. They’re worried that when users are given the choice, they’ll select ‘Ask App Not to Track’, causing havoc for Facebook, their brands and their revenue stream. With less data available, Facebook will be left with chaos. Suddenly, there’ll be less signals to optimise towards (i.e. updating their platform in accordance with user preferences) and a far less sophisticated algorithm. Brands will find it difficult to discover and retarget users by optimising towards conversion events, so it could very well be game over for Dynamic Ads.


Apple threaten full rollout will be completed by to be early 2021 (although this date has already been moved back several times). Until this happens, we don’t know fully how advertising will be impacted. It goes without saying that you’ll have to learn to be less reliant on pixel-based targeting. Your pixel will still be fully functional, and open to signals, but finding users who agree to informing you their signal has been “fired”, will be a different story. At Connects, we can reach your customers beyond the pixel. We use a network of influencers who emulate reality, overlaid with a broader targeting model, to futureproof our content against any future system updates. We rely on less data signals to run our paid campaigns, and offer a mid-funnel approach to new and existing clients.

The update will undoubtedly lead to less tracking availability across Apple, so Facebook are right to be worried (unhappy brands = potential for them to reinvest spend elsewhere) but you don’t have to be. Yes, less tracking availability leads to shrinking audience pools, which leads to underperforming campaigns, but that’s where integrating influencers into paid campaigns becomes vital.

From a brand perspective, you’re not cornered. There’s always TikTok – who have Paid engagement above and beyond – and influencer campaigns are an extremely effective alternative on Facebook-owned platforms. If isn’t enough to force change, when two of the world’s largest companies are squabbling in court over privacy issues, we don’t know what is. Both sides are up against it, with their morals and motives up for scrutiny, and because their business models won’t really allow for change. It may never come to this, but it’s a fascinating question: Who blinks first? Does Facebook need the iPhone more than the iPhone needs Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram?

 Our MD, Sedge Beswick, weighs in: ‘The IOS update has been on our radar for a while now. We’ve never been the type of agency who limit ourselves to Instagram campaigns because they’re “safe”. It can only be a good thing that data handling is being put under a microscope, and really, the internet is a living, breathing thing that should naturally evolve. More so than ever, we’re up for the challenge of creating new work, on new platforms. And I think brands should be excited by that. Ironically, the Facebook mantra: “Move fast, break things” springs to mind. Ready when you are Apple!’

The Bottom Line

If the majority of your audience runs on android, happy days! If not, don’t panic; this isn’t the end of the road for brands having a relationship with Facebook, it just means we’ll all have to watch, get creative and pivot when necessary. Feel free to drop us a line at info@seenconnects.com if you’d like to know more, or feel like this is the sign you needed for a foray into TikTok!