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Facebook, Apple are feuding over ads | What does it mean for local businesses?

Apple now allows users to tailor which apps get info from their device. Facebook is arguing that this feature loses value for advertisers and hurts small businesses.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — If you’ve spent any time scrolling through Facebook or Instagram over the past few days, chances are you’ve come across a video like this one—a montage of small business owners, produced by Facebook, accusing Apple of essentially sabotaging their marketing efforts.

“Social media is so crucial to every small business that I know,” said a man in the video. “I don’t know where my business would be if I wasn’t able to run a personalized ad,” a woman featured says following.

Facebook’s gripe with Apple is over the latest iOS 14 update (software your iPhone or iPad may be running right now, whether you realize it or not). The feature that you or I probably noticed first was the redesigned home screen, but another part of the update hidden under the surface is the source of the latest tech drama. 

Apple is now letting users proactively decide whether or not to allow apps they’ve downloaded track certain data, like the websites they visit or the things they’ve shopped for recently. Apple has argued this puts the power in the hands of the user to decide what information about them is shared. 

Advertisers worry that users will decide not to share, and that in turn has Facebook worried. One of the reasons apps like Facebook and Instagram can be offered for free is because businesses see high value in their ad potential. Targeted ads, specifically—for example, a running shoe ad for a person who has been searching for them online—is a marketing model that is particularly valuable.

RELATED: Amazon, Facebook, YouTube ordered to reveal how they collect, use customer data

Will this new update hurt small businesses like Facebook is claiming? 

To be sure, different entrepreneurs will have different opinions and answers to that question; but, we spoke with Randy Blevins, the founder of Think Tank Marketing in Louisville. 

Think Tank is a small business that helps other small businesses in our area market themselves, particularly through social media. In other words, he is well-poised to weigh in on this topic.

Blevins said this update could negatively impact some businesses particularly larger ones that offer specialized products and sell exclusively online, but well before this he has always advised his clients to take an all-encompassing approach to advertising so they are not as vulnerable to the changing winds of tech.

“I’m not mad about it, but obviously from my point of view it’s going to affect how we do things,” said Blevins. “For example, if I’m working with my popcorn company, I can’t easily find out that you like snack foods and popcorn anymore. So, it’s not that you’re not going to get ads—I think you’re still going to get ads—but it may not be the ads that you’re interested in at all.”

Therein lies the trade off in tech when it comes to privacy. One way to look at target ads is to view them as intrusive on your web activities across different sites. Apple is planting its flag squarely in the “privacy” side of the debate.

However, some, including Blevins, view marketing as a service not only for the businesses employing it, but for the potential customers as well. Some customers shopping for new running shoes may be glad be informed of a current sale going on, even if it means that store offering the sale is targeting them based on their search history. 

That’s why Blevins said plans to allow his social media apps to continue collecting his web traffic data.

“I’ve gotten shoes that I like, I’ve found new brands that I like during COVID for masks and things, because they’ve been serving me ads based on my preferences,” Blevins said. “So I’ll probably opt in.”

Contact reporter Rob Harris at rjharris@whas11.com. Follow him on Twitter (@robharristv) and Facebook.  

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