If Apple is King Kong and Facebook is Godzilla, mom-and-pop online merchants are worried they’re the screaming, scattering citizens who are about to get stomped as these two giants battle it out.
What’s at issue is a seemingly small change to the iPhone and iPad operating system that upends the past decade of the online ad industry, by prompting users to choose whether or not they’d like to be tracked by the apps they use. […]
“I’m not in the camp that privacy doesn’t matter, but data has been used forever in order to personalize advertising,” says John Merris, CEO of Solo Stove, a startup that sells backyard fire pits online. “The question is, where is the right place to draw the line? And why is Apple now the decider?”
That’s the thing, John. Apple isn’t the decider. And neither are you, nor Facebook. It’s the consumers who finally get to choose how their data is used to track them. Simply because you’ve been using my data without my permission to track and target me with advertising for “forever” doesn’t make it any more right. Using the argument of “we’ve always done things this way” puts us back in a pretty dark era of dueling with pistols to settle disagreements.
Apple isn’t entirely deaf to advertisers’ concerns. “We firmly support advertising, we simply believe users should have the choice over the data that is being collected about them and how it’s used,” says an Apple spokesman. “Apps and advertisers can continue to track users across apps and websites as before — App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 simply requires that they ask for users’ permission before sharing their data with other companies,” he adds.
So if a user wants to give their data to John Merris and his stove company, users can still do exactly that. And I’m certain many, many users would be happy to know their browsing history, personal interests, previous purchases (both online and off), and contact lists are in the safe and responsible hands of Mr. Merris in exchange for personalized ads about… stoves… Good luck with that, John.
We, the consumer — and ironically this joker’s customers — have been the victims of online tracking and data theft for decades. I’m certain I never gave John Merris or Facebook permission to grow their businesses on the back of my personal data. Small businesses survived for centuries with word of mouth, good customer service, and print and television ads that didn’t track their readers and viewers.
So why do these small businesses suddenly believe they need to know my browsing history to sell me a stove? Facebook. Facebook is like the drug dealer giving out free samples at the PTA meeting, and before you know it, you’re hooked. Hooked on addictive data about every customer, every sale, every click. And now that consumers are finally getting back some control of our data, business owners are feeling the shakes. It’ll pass and their business will be fine, and they’ll realize this, too, once that poison Facebook has been feeding them is out of their system.