For years, Apple CEO Tim Cook has been the most vocal privacy champion of any major big tech executive. But within Apple, the decision to restrict ad tracking of iPhone users in 2020 has sparked an intense debate over how far to push privacy changes that could disrupt the digital advertising industry. .
On one side of the discussions was Craig Federighi, Apple’s chief software officer. He oversaw a team of privacy-conscious engineers who wanted to curtail the powers of an Apple tool that unscrupulous advertising companies, mobile developers and data brokers were exploiting to track iPhone user behavior, according to people with direct knowledge of the discussions. On the other side were groups reporting to Eddy Cue, head of Apple’s services and advertising business, and Philip Schiller, then the company’s chief marketing officer, who ran its App Store. Cue’s and Schiller’s teams argued for more cautious action against the tool, given that many developers depended on it for ad revenue. Schiller’s group also worried about potential damage to App Store revenue, though Schiller himself agrees with Federighi and his team, the people said.
Eventually, Apple executives came to a solution. The company asked app developers to ask users whether they want to allow their online activities to be tracked on websites and apps operated by companies other than the developer. Developers could no longer use the tool to track users who had unsubscribed, but instead had to rely on an inferior system developed by Apple that better protected user privacy. For many digital advertising companies, the impact of Apple’s changes, which the company began rolling out last April, has been seismic. This is especially true for Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms, which expects the changes to slash $10 billion from revenue this year due to their impact on the company’s prodigious data collection practices. .