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Facebook considers telling users enabling tracking keeps app ‘free of charge’

Facebook is considering adding new screens for both its main app and Instagram, to educate users that enabling tracking under Apple’s App Tracking Transparency policy will “help keep” the apps free to use.

Following the introduction of App Tracking Transparency as part of iOS 14.5, apps have been working to incorporate the system-level prompt request. With it being in some advertising-focused apps best interest to convince users to continue allowing the app to track their device’s IDFA tag for marketing purposes, it seems that Facebook is doing what it can to encourage users to do so.

Example notifications spotted by researcher Ashkan Soltani on Saturday as part of the social network’s explanation of rule updates show what Facebook is considering presenting to users, reports The Verge. The notices, which are depicted in both the Facebook app and Instagram, show the same text, and form part of a notification designed to be shown before Apple’s system-level ATT prompt.

The text of the notifications explains the version of iOS “requires us to ask for permission to track some data from this device to improve your ads. Learn how we limit the use of this information if you don’t turn on this setting,” the screen continues while linking to a support page.

The screen carries on by stating “We use information about your activity received from other apps and websites to: Show you ads that are personalized, Help keep Facebook free of charge, [and] Support businesses that rely on ads to reach their customers.” The screen then concludes with a “Continue” button, presumably set up to summon the ATT permission dialog.

The main problem with the notification as shown in the image is the use of the phrase “Help keep Facebook free of charge,” as it insinuates that Facebook could be forced to charge for access down the line. An earlier iteration of Facebook’s notification screen does not include the “free of charge” line at all.

Despite the issue, it seems that Facebook’s screen follows all of Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines regarding the tracking request screen.

Apple does allow the pre-alert screen to be used to convince users to turn it on, but forbids it from being used to “withhold functionality or content,” nor to offer outright incentives. Facebook’s notification screen goes along with Apple’s ruleset, including the use of a single button marked “Continue” to move the user on to the prompt.

It is unclear if Facebook is actually using the notification as presented to its users, but the level of work that went into the screen, as well as adhering to Apple’s guidelines, makes it seem likely to be used at some point.

In a note to advertisers on April 29, Facebook detailed the impact of ATT to its clients, including the restricted availability of ad targeting and metrics tools, as well as a possible impact on audience engagement.

For months before ATT’s arrival, Facebook waged war with Apple over its introduction, including creating an advertising campaign in newspapers against the move. However, by March 18, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg seemingly toned down the complaints, suggesting it may even be beneficial to the social network after all.


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