Facebook iOS App Users Sue Meta for Alleged Skirting of Apple’s Privacy Rules
A new lawsuit alleges that Meta Platforms Inc., the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has evaded Apple’s new restrictions to protect internet activity tracking of iPhone users. It alleges that the company is monitoring users through its in-app browser on Facebook. This browser opens any link within the app.
Last year, Apple rolled out a privacy update to iOS and the privacy feature is called App Tracking Transparency (ATT). This update made tracking user behavior more difficult. However, the lawsuit claims that Meta has snooped through a workaround. Apple’s rollout was a blow to social media companies that relied on user-behavior tracking for advertising.
Users of the iOS app for Facebook are suing Meta for allegedly collecting their data despite their use of the privacy setting that Apple implemented in April 2021. A second-class action complaint against Meta in a week was filed on Wednesday in a federal court in San Francisco by two iOS Facebook users.
The class action lawsuit claims that Meta circumvented ATT’s privacy-preserving features, such as removing cross-host tracking on iOS, by setting up alternative monitoring techniques on third-party websites through in-app browser programs.
In the complaint, originally reported by Bloomberg, two Facebook users claim that Meta, in addition to Apple’s standards, is abusing both state and federal privacy laws, including the Wiretap Act, which made intercepting electronic communications without consent unlawful. Last week a related lawsuit, Mitchell v. Meta Platforms Inc., was submitted.
This is how protection runs: In order to continue using their normal apps, iPhone users receive a lot more privacy alerts asking for their consent to “track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites.” On and off toggling is possible by selecting the Tracking menu, which asks for tracking permission in the iOS privacy settings.
If the user says “no” to tracking, the app will not be able to use Apple’s IDFA identifier to send the user’s activity data with data brokers or third-party vendors ad-targeting. Additionally, it means that the app can no longer track you using additional identifiers, such as hashed email addresses.
Heated discussions about ATT preceded its release. Facebook stated that by seriously undermining ad targeting, Apple is also harming small businesses that rely on targeting to run cost-efficient, successful ad campaigns. Since developers are not permitted to restrict any functionality based on who opts into or out of tracking, it is difficult to imagine many typical iPhone owners saying yes when these prompts start to emerge.
However, mobile attribution firm AppsFlyer claims that preliminary data indicates that opt-in rates may reach 39%.
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