Facebook and Instagram threaten: ‘Apps not free without your data’

facebook and instagram threaten
facebook and instagram threaten

Facebook and Instagram have been showing users a striking message for several days. The apps ask for permission to track the user, otherwise the services could cost money, Facebook threatens.

The striking notification is shown to at least English-speaking users of the iOS apps of Instagram and Facebook. In the post, Facebook and Instagram explain why they believe they should monitor user behavior between different apps and sites. This tracking has been going on unnoticed for years, but  since the new iOS 14.5 , which appeared last week, apps on the iPhone and iPad must now request permission for this so-called tracking .

Makers of apps with tracking can provide an explanation of the mandatory request for permission. Facebook and Instagram do this with the message: “We use information about your activity on other apps and websites to keep Facebook / Instagram free.”

Data required for personal advertising

Facebook also cites two other reasons: personalizing ads and supporting small businesses. Facebook has been using this argument for some time against Apple’s new rule, which was even postponed after criticism from Facebook. According to Facebook, smaller companies in particular use personalized advertisements: they only address a certain audience and that is cheaper than a massive advertising campaign.

The well-known example: you are looking for a new washing machine and suddenly see advertisements for washing machines everywhere. This personal advertising is only possible if Facebook and Instagram know as best as possible who their users are.

Anyone who refuses the request for tracking will see exactly the same amount of advertising on Facebook and Instagram, although those advertisements may be less personal.

Paying for Facebook has been suggested before

It is not the first time that Facebook speaks of a possible paid version. In 2019, the slogan ‘free and always will be – free and it always will be’ was removed from the Facebook homepage. In 2018, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg did not want to rule out a paid version of Facebook.

Facebook manager Sheryl Sandberg was already asked in 2018 : “Can you create a function that says, ‘I don’t want Facebook to use my personal profile data for targeted advertising?’. Can I have an opt-out button?”. Sandberg then responded: “That would be a paid product.”

Such a payment function to avoid advertising is not new: Spotify has become big with it and YouTube has been offering an ad-free option since 2016. More and more sites and services also offer a paid ad-free option.