Some of Facebook’s own employees believe that its recent attacks on Apple, sparked by upcoming iOS privacy features, may be unjustified and could be seen as self-serving.
The social media giant has attacked Apple specifically for a planned privacy change that would make it harder for advertisers to track users across websites and apps. Facebook has run full-page newspaper ads, in-app banners, and other campaigns decrying the feature.
Facebook’s message is that the upcoming privacy change will hurt small and medium businesses. But, according to a BuzzFeed News report, not all of Facebook’s employees actually believe that.
“It feels like we are trying to justify doing a bad thing by hiding behind people with a sympathetic message,” one engineer wrote in response to an internal post by Facebook ad chief Dany Levy.
Ahead of an internal talk to explain the campaign against Apple, Facebook employees asked or voted on questions about the potential consequences of the attacks.
“Aren’t we worried that our stance protecting [small- and medium-sized businesses] will backfire as people see it as ‘FB protecting their own business’ instead?” read one question from an employee.
A different question acknowledged that Facebook’s current efforts could be “bad PR,” since people want privacy and the company’s efforts against it “will be viewed with cynicism.” Another Facebook staffer asked how the social media giant could pick a message that appeared “less self serving.”
In his answers to the employee questions, Facebook VP of product marketing Graham Mudd said that the company has been “really clear” about the effects of Apple’s privacy features — including the effects on Facebook’s own bottom line.
“We’re not trying to sweep that under the rug. We are, you know, a profitable, big company and we’re going to get through this and adapt our products and so forth. But the real folks that are going to get hit by this are small businesses, and that’s why we made them the focus of the message,” Mudd wrote.
In response to employees asking why Facebook didn’t choose to be more transparent and convince users to opt in to tracking, Mudd said that this was “Apple’s marketing working and convincing you to scapegoat us so they can decide how the internet should work — even beyond their devices.”
“I’m an optimist who works in technology because I think tech can be a lever for democratizing access and giving opportunity. Including for businesses. And if you think this is going to stop with personalized ads . . . well, then I disagree,” Mudd said.
The exact feature that Facebook is concerned about is a change that makes the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) tag opt in on an app-by-app basis. Facebook says that the feature could impact ad revenue by as much as 60%.
Facebook’s attacks on Apple have been criticized by other technology companies and industry groups, including the Electronic Frontier Foundation.