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Apple and Facebook face off in an epic user privacy showdown

May 2, 2021, 11:00 PM UTC

There’s a titan-sized clash going on in the tech world right now. On one side: Apple. On the other: Facebook. The companies are fighting it out over a user privacy issue. Apple’s latest update for iOS and iPadOS, 14.5, allows users to opt out of tracking by apps. But Facebook claims that the changes will severely harm small businesses.

“This could signal a pretty big paradigm shift for digital privacy and for digital advertising going forward,” says Michal Lev-Ram, co-host of Fortune Brainstorm.

And ads are just the beginning, says Gennie Gebhart, a privacy researcher and the acting activism director with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which advocates for consumer rights in the digital world.

“Even for someone like me whose job it is to track this stuff,” Gebhart says, “I’m learning about new creepy things that are happening every single day. And the different kinds of sharing, tracking, profiling, behavioral monitoring, and all of that is designed to be … really hard for users to see and understand.”

This week Gebhart joins Lev-Ram and co-host Brian O’Keefe on Fortune Brainstorm, a podcast that explores how technology is reshaping our world.

Also on the show is Fortune‘s Aaron Pressman, a tech writer who regularly covers Apple. Pressman explains why the tech giant dust-up is happening.

“The implication of this is that lots and lots of advertising networks—of which Facebook runs one of the largest—that collect information [about] everyone using the iPhone so that they can sell more ads and sell more apps,” Pressman says, “probably won’t have much of an audience … if [iPhone users] click ‘no’.”

Meanwhile, he adds, “lots of little developers and little businesses and little direct-to-consumer clothing manufacturers and stuff are the main users of these targeted ads.”

Rounding out the show is Todd Parsons, chief product officer of Criteo, which develops advertising technology solutions. Along with discussing how Apple’s move will change the digital advertising world, he says that this will usher in a more privacy-focused era.

“Consumers are pulling,” Parsons says of the desire for increased privacy protections, “and regulators are pushing.”

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