Apple’s Cook calls out Facebook in Tweet; exploring antitrust options; FTC fact-finding on personal data; DCN and Apple fees

Privacy Beat

Your weekly privacy news update.



Apple CEO takes to Tweet responding to Facebook’s newspaper advertising — as tech giants wage privacy-policy “war”

Apple CEO Tim Cook took to Twitter at the end of the week to trash Facebook over privacy and did so with a mock iPhone screen shot  (pictured above).  It was the latest salvo in an escalating war-of-words between the two tech giants.  It’s been simmering for years, analysts wrote.

Simply put here is the issue: Apple is forcing companies that want apps to run on Apple devices, as of this week, to post an expanded notice — some are calling it a “privacy nutrition label” — about how they are handling user data.  Also, early next year, Apple has said it will stop most third-party use of the IDFA — a cross-company advertising identifier that has been part of iPhones and mobile iPads.

Both changes are direct hits to Facebook’s targetted ad-focused business model. Facebook’s response this week as full-page ads in the Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street siding with small advertisers that it said would be hurt by loss of the IDFA as a method to target ads.  Cook’s response in the Tweet:

“We believe users should have the choice over the data that is being collected about them and how it’s used. Facebook can continue to track users across apps and websites as before, App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 will just require that they ask for your permission first.”

In its account, The New York Times said the dispute amounted to taking the gloves off over business models and privacy.  Axios’ “quick take” by veteran tech writer Sarah Fischer said the new nutrition label is a part of a greater push by Apple to claim industry leadership on user-first privacy practices. On its updated privacy website, the company says, “Privacy is a fundamental human right.”




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Options: Breakups, spinouts, fines and operational changes in wake of multiple platform antitrust suits

Anyone else planning to sue Facebook or Google?  After a few years of wait-and-see it was as if a dam had burst this week, with Google now facing three antitrust lawsuits and Facebook one.

If nothing else, the suits will start a legal process which could force public disclosure of internal corporate documents embarrassing to either or both of the platforms.

 As attorneys general and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission begin discovery, they are sure to also begin negotiations with the companies about (a) paying voluntary fines in exchange for dropping the suits or (b) agreeing to stop certain practices believe to hurt competitors or (c) actually selling or splitting off units.

 For example, could Google ever consider giving up ownership of the Chrome browser, so that its advertising business wouldn’t have a same-family relationship with the most common way of accessing the web? Could the Chrome browser be turned over to the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation? Or, to spread out its advertising market share, could Google turn over YouTube to a new, separate, company owned by its current shareholders? And what if Facebook were required to spin out either WhatsApp, Instagram, or both?

There was no dearth this week of basic stories about the lawsuits. Rani Moll and Adam Clark Estes of Record/ produced the best brief explainer on the three antitrust suits pending against Google over adtech and search.

For publishers there was particular focus on the suit brought by Texas’ attorney general with other states because of its claims that Google has an effective monopoly in an advertising market. Media Post’s Rob Williams wrote that the case is crucial to publishers. And The New York Times’ tech columnist Shira Ovide wondered if it revealed a “smoking gun” of collusion between Google and Facebook to give Facebook a preference in bidding on ad positions.






FTC opens fact-finding probe of how social-media and video platforms use and monetize personal data

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission went fishing for documents from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media to “lift the hood” on how they use and share consumer data.  Under the FTC’s rules, the companies have 45 days to respond.

“Never before has there been an industry capable of surveilling and monetizing so much of our personal lives,” three of the FTC commissioners said in a written statement. “But to what end? Is this surveillance used to build psychological profiles of users? Predict their behavior? Manipulate experiences to generate ad sales? Promote content to capture attention or shape discourse? Too much about the industry remains dangerously opaque.”

The statement said the FTC wanted to understand how business models influence what Americans see and hear, with whom they talk and what information they share, and how children and families are targeted or categorized or the subject of social experiments. “We look forward to receiving critical information that will shed light on the business practices deeply embedded in our digital lives.”

The orders, which do not implicate any legal wrongdoing, were sent to Amazon, ByteDance (the parent company of TikTok), Discord, Facebook, Reddit, Snapchat, Twitter, WhatsApp and YouTube, wrote The Hill’s Chris Mills Rodrigo.





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Mainstream U.S. publishers join group press on  Apple to lower its 30% fee on App Store subscriptions

“App” developers are gaining support of major publishers in bringing public pressure on Apple to lower the cost of selling within the Apple App Store. Taking a page from allegations made in recent platform antitrust suits, the non-profit Coalition for App Fairness (CAF)  wants Apple to be more consistent in the up-to-30%  fees it charges for allowing digital sales on Apple devices.

  This week, TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez reported that Digital Content Next (DCN)  has joined CAF. DCN is a trade association of mainstream print/digital publishers, including newspapers, magazines, digital-only and also NPR.  For years, publishers have griped about Apple’s requirement that they pay a 30% fee and give data to Apple when they sell a subscription. In the current atmosphere of antitrust scrutiny, the griping now has some agency.

“DCN is pleased to join the Coalition for App Fairness working to establish a fair and competitive digital landscape,” said DCN CEO Jason Kint, in a statement reported by Perez. “The premium publisher members of DCN enjoy trusted, direct relationships with consumers, who don’t expect intermediaries to impose arbitrary fees and rules which limit their ability to consume the news and entertainment they love.”

DCN joins other media organizations who are already CAF members, Perez wrote, including the European Publishers Council, News Media Europe, GESTE and Schibsted, as well as CAF founding members like Basecamp, Blix,, Deezer, Epic Games, Match Group, Prepear, Protonmail, Skydemon, Spotify and Tile, plus a growing number of smaller developers.






Is it really necessary to track every user to get ad measurement not even as good as the old days?

“Despite the breathless rush to multi touch attribution and the still-perpetuated myth that a magic sequence of ads can trigger the perfect path to purchase, this mistaken notion – that tracking consumers is the only way to approach measurement – was never true to begin with. The issue here is that tracking-based measurement was never all that accurate to begin with. Prioritizing only that a consumer saw a digital ad and made a purchase online ignores the myriad other touchpoints that could have contributed to the conversion, from brand awareness, promotions and traditional media to ad exposure, seasonality and economic conditions . . .

“Making matters worse is that the industry appears to be doubling down on new consumer identity schemes in order to ensure continued measurement all while seeming to blissfully disregard how we got to this point of disruption: the fact that consumers are concerned about their privacy. In this attribution gold rush, the market forgot – or perhaps never learned – about traditional measurement approaches, such as marketing mix modeling, randomized control tests and holdout testing . . .

“These proven measurement approaches in many cases are far more accurate than multitouch attribution, they cover both digital and traditional media channels and they measure outcomes both online and offline. So let’s not forget how we got to this point of disruption, while also keeping in mind what consumers wants: their privacy. And in the ongoing search for alternative solutions, let’s also not be blind to measurement methods that we seem to have lost sight of in the first place.”


Privacy Beat is a weekly email update from the Information Trust Exchange Governing Association in service to its mission. Links and brief reports are compiled, summarized or analyzed by Bill Densmore and Eva Tucker.  Submit links and ideas for coverage to

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