Google And Facebook Partner To Circumvent Apple's Privacy Approach


It has been for a long time, that Google controls the web.

While indirectly controlling the network, the company's search engine has become the center of most internet activities. And things spread from there, as Google also controls Android on mobile, users' commute with Google Maps, video-streaming with YouTube, work with Gmail and its array of Google apps, and more.

A similar thing also applies to Facebook, the social giant of the internet.

If Facebook as the largest social media app in the world isn't big enough, the company also owns Instagram, the most popular photo- and video-sharing app, and WhatsApp, the messaging app with the most users.

While the Google and Facebook are competitors on several verticals, what they have in common is that, they rely on targeted ads to survive.

By showing ads based on users' interest of past browsing habit, the two titans control most of the internet's marketing business that is worth billions of dollars.

If there is anything that can stop them from dominating too much, is Apple.

Facebook, Google vs. Apple

Since iOS 14.5, Apple's App Tracking Transparency has changed the advertising game.

Apple has also implemented many privacy protection measures into its products, including Safari, such as the 2018's Intelligent Tracking Protection 2.0, which requires websites to request tracking privileges from users on an opt-in basis. Apple also makes Safari to also stop storing cookies after 30 days after users stops visiting relevant sites, along with other privacy improvements on independent tracking of widgets and embeds.

As a result, Apple's mobile users are no longer easy to track., as owners of the devices have the option to block third-party trackers from tracking wherever they go.

This approach preserves users' privacy to an extent, that Google's and Facebook's advertising businesses are affected.

In order to stop Apple on its track undermine Apple's attempts to offer its users great privacy protections, Google is said to have teamed up with Facebook to work around Apple's privacy tools in Safari to continue tracking end-users.

The lawsuit that was filed against Google in December 2020 by a group of 12 attorneys general, accusing the search engine of "engaging in market collusion to rig auctions."

According to a discussion between Facebook employees in 2019, the complaint said that Facebook was having difficult times in matching users data Apple's Safari browser.

The lawsuit then accuses the two tech giant of trying to work against initiatives by Apple.

Making things more intense, the pact also include the two working with each other, if ever they came under regulatory scrutiny.

This is revealed in an antitrust lawsuit that claims the search engine is also doing what it could to slow down other regulatory initiatives surrounding privacy.

On October 22, the lawsuit is later updated to largely focus on a deal between Google and Facebook, which cooperates the two in the online advertising business instead of competing.

Expanding on the original claim in some directions, it is revealed that Google may have tried more ways to subvert user privacy.

As part of the complaint, it is alleged Google and Facebook "have been working together to improve Facebook`s ability to recognize users using browsers with blocked cookies on Apple devices.

Google said Facebook's user match rates were the same as other ad auction parties, but Facebook said that the search company was willing to use JavaScript to help it better recognize those users.

The two companies try to circumvent Apple's privacy measure by working together closely, and integrating their SDKs "so Google can pass Facebook data for user ID cookie matching," the complaint reads.

"They also coordinated with each other to harm publishers through the adoption of Unified Pricing rules…"

"Google quickly realized that this innovation substantially threatened its exchange’s ability to demand a very large – 19 to 22 percent – cut on all advertising transactions," the revised complaint said. "Header bidding also undermined Google’s ability to trade on inside and non-public information from one side of the market to advantage itself on the other – a practice that in other markets would be considered insider trading or front running."

Initially, the amended complaint said that Google appeared to accommodate publishers by allowing them to use its servers to send their ad space inventory to be sold on more than one exchange at a time.

"However, Google secretly made its own exchange win, even when another exchange submitted a higher bid," the amended complaint said.

"Google’s codename for this program was Jedi – a reference to Star Wars."

The attorneys general also accused Facebook and Google of engaging in an illegal advertising deal, with the latter leveraging monopoly power over its adtech business by helping Facebook make better bids in ad auctions, which would make it easier for Facebook content to appear in more Google Ads.

Apple App Tracking Transparency

"The companies have been working together to improve Facebook's ability to recognize users using browsers with blocked cookies, on Apple devices, and on Apple's Safari Browser," the amended complaint stated.

"Thereby circumventing one Big Tech company's efforts to compete by offering users better privacy."

It's also alleged that Google tried to coordinate efforts among other tech firms "to forestall and diminish child privacy protections in proposed regulations by the FTC" and legislators.

In response, a spokesperson for Facebook said that Facebook "has long supported fair and transparent advertising auctions in which all bidders compete simultaneously, and the highest bidder wins."

"Facebook's non-exclusive bidding agreement with Google and the similar agreements we have with other bidding platforms, have helped to increase competition for ad placements."

As for Google, the search giant denies the lawsuit's claims.

A spokesperson for Google said that "just because Attorney General Paxton asserts something doesn't make it true. This lawsuit is riddled with inaccuracies."'

"In reality, our advertising technologies help websites and apps fund their content, and enable small businesses to reach customers around the world. There is vigorous competition in online advertising, which has reduced ad tech fees, and expanded options for publishers and advertisers. We will strongly defend ourselves from his baseless claims in court."

"We've been clear about our support for consistent privacy rules around the globe. For example, we have been calling on Congress to pass federal privacy legislation for years," the company added.

As for Apple, in an earlier report, the company explained its stands on users’ privacy, saying that it believes that "privacy is a basic human right and that users should have transparency and choice about how their data is collected and used."

“We’ve invested in privacy-preserving technologies for decades, with Intelligent Tracking Prevention in Safari, Privacy Labels on the App Store, Sign in with Apple, and App Tracking Transparency,” it added. “Our privacy features apply to all developers — including Apple. But users won’t see App Tracking Transparency prompts from Apple because we don’t track users.”

An Apple spokesperson once said that the company's approach in privacy has received considerable support for this new feature from regulators and privacy groups.

Read: Google Has The Web, Facebook Has The App, Apple Has The Device. How Will This Affect Small Businesses?