Apple Takes Its Biggest Stand Yet Against Facebook and Advertisers

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Jun 4, 2018
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Apple is known for its focus on user privacy. The iPhone maker’s battle with the FBI over encryption became the biggest tech story of 2016. When Facebook made it to the headlines earlier this year (no end to those yet…) for its data sharing controversies, Apple CEO Tim Cook publicly said that he would never be in Mark Zuckerberg’s situation.

“The truth is, we could make a ton of money if we monetized our customer – if our customer was our product,” Cook had said. “We’ve elected not to do that.”

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Apple takes a hit at Facebook’s web-tracking activities

It now appears that Apple is also choosing to not enable other companies to monetize Apple’s consumer. Last night a report revealed how Facebook has been giving device makers access to user data to offer Facebook services. In its event today, Apple has said it will make it “dramatically more difficult” for companies like Facebook to track individual users.

“One of the reasons that people choose Apple products is because of our commitment to privacy,” Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering, said.

“We’ve all seen these like buttons and share buttons. It turns out, these can be used to track you, whether you click on them or not. So this year, we are shutting them down.”

Federighi added that Apple will be introducing blockers on Safari for third-party trackers on websites that will enable users to deny access to these trackers. Safari’s intelligent tracking prevention will prevent “clever and relentless” data tracking companies from using “like” or “share” buttons to track users without their permission.

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The next versions of iOS and macOS will present alerts that ask: “Do you want to allow Facebook.com to use cookies and available data while browsing?”

“You can decide to keep your information private.” – Apple

If that wasn’t enough a hit at Facebook, Apple also said that it will make it much more difficult for companies that track devices using “fingerprinting,” a method that uses a device’s specific configuration, fonts and plugins to track a user across the web. Safari will now show stripped down details when users browse the web.

“As a result, your Mac will look like everyone else’s Mac,” Federighi said, “and it will be dramatically more difficult for data companies to uniquely identify your device.”

While Apple has itself come under fire for blocking VPN apps in Russia and was recently alleged to have stopped sending updates to Telegram, the company continues to make decisions and introduce features that keep it at the front of the privacy debate. Tech companies have long favored convenience over security. Apple’s decision to potentially nag users with Safari prompts shows that it’s ready to take some heat to protect users from companies like Facebook and get some bonus trust points in the process too.

“We believe your private data should remain private because there can be a lot of sensitive data on your devices,” Federighi said, “and we think you should be in control of who sees it.”

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