Speaking Up for Small Businesses

By Dan Levy, VP Ads and Business Products

Update on June 30, 2021 at 10:10AM PT:

Starting today we’ll be testing in-feed notifications on Facebook and Instagram to let people know they can receive ads that may be more personalized if they allow us to use their activity we receive from other apps and websites. We want to continue to educate people on the benefits of personalized ads. The test will help us understand if people find it useful to have the choice to visit their device settings when they learn how their data can be used to improve the ads they see — and if they appreciate receiving this context after they’ve engaged with an ad in some way.

Update on April 26, 2021 at 10:15AM PT:

At Facebook we use data to provide personalized ads, which support small businesses and help keep apps free. Starting today, Apple will require apps that engage in what it calls “tracking” to ask permission when using information from apps and websites owned by other companies to personalize or measure ads. This will happen through a prompt designed by Apple that discourages people from giving their permission, and provides little detail about what this decision means. 

As Apple has said that providing additional context is allowed, we will show an educational screen before presenting Apple’s prompt to help people make an informed decision about how their information is used. It provides more details about how we use data for personalized ads, as well as the ways we limit the use of activity other apps and websites send us if people don’t turn on this device setting. Our screen also lets people know that they’re seeing Apple’s prompt due to Apple’s requirements for iOS 14.5.

Below we’re sharing what our educational screen looks like on Facebook and Instagram. 

Screenshot of educational screen on Facebook and Instagram on iOS14

Update on February 1, 2021 at 7:00AM PT:

As we shared in December, we disagree with Apple’s approach, but will be showing their prompt to ensure stability for the businesses and people who use our services. Apple’s new prompt suggests there is a tradeoff between personalized advertising and privacy; when in fact, we can and do provide both. The Apple prompt also provides no context about the benefits of personalized ads. 

To help people make a more informed decision, we’re also showing a screen of our own, along with Apple’s. It will provide more information about how we use personalized ads, which support small businesses and keep apps free. If you accept the prompts for Facebook and Instagram, the ads you see on those apps won’t change. If you decline, you will still see ads, but they will be less relevant to you. Agreeing to these prompts doesn’t result in Facebook collecting new types of data. It just means that we can continue to give people better experiences. We feel that people deserve the additional context, and Apple has said that providing education is allowed.

Originally published on December 16, 2020 at 8:00AM PT:

Facebook is speaking up for small businesses. Apple’s new iOS 14 policy will have a harmful impact on many small businesses that are struggling to stay afloat and on the free internet that we all rely on more than ever. Here is an overview of what Apple is doing and where we stand:

  1. They’re creating a policy — enforced via iOS 14’s AppTrackingTransparency — that’s about profit, not privacy. It will force businesses to turn to subscriptions and other in-app payments for revenue, meaning Apple will profit and many free services will have to start charging or exit the market.
  2. They’re hurting small businesses and publishers who are already struggling in a pandemic. These changes will directly affect their ability to use their advertising budgets efficiently and effectively. Our studies show, without personalized ads powered by their own data, small businesses could see a cut of over 60% of website sales from ads. We don’t anticipate the proposed iOS 14 changes to cause a full loss of personalization but rather a move in that direction over the longer term.
  3. They’re not playing by their own rules. Apple’s own personalized ad platform isn’t subject to the new iOS 14 policy. 
  4. We disagree with Apple’s approach, yet we have no choice but to show their prompt. If we don’t, we’ll face retaliation from Apple, which could only further harm the businesses we want to support. We can’t take that risk.

For 20 years I’ve been working with small businesses; I’ve dedicated my career to helping these businesses grow. And what I have been privileged to witness firsthand is how the internet has fundamentally changed the trajectory for so many businesses and the people behind them. Because of the internet, an entrepreneur is able to turn an idea into a business with just their mobile device. 

One of the big reasons this is possible is because the internet has made marketing accessible and affordable. Dozens of platforms exist to support small businesses with setting up websites, payments, logistics and financing, but you need to find customers to grow a business. On Facebook, you can run a campaign with a phone and a few dollars — you no longer need an expensive agency, a five-figure budget or fancy production equipment. I’ve met many business owners who successfully have. In fact, the best part of working at Facebook is hearing stories from people who have transformed their lives and their communities by using our tools to turn a great idea into a thriving business. 

I mention all of that because what Apple is proposing with their iOS 14 AppTrackingTransparency policy puts this at risk — benefitting big businesses and hurting small businesses. We’ve heard from many of you, small businesses in particular, that you are concerned about how Apple’s changes will impact your ability to effectively reach customers and grow — let alone survive in a pandemic.

So we’re speaking up for small businesses.

What’s Happening: iOS 14 Update

In June 2020, Apple announced a new policy requiring apps to show a discouraging prompt which will hurt their ability to build their businesses.

The Impact: Entrepreneurs, Content Creators and Small Businesses

So who is truly impacted? Your neighborhood coffee brewery, your friend who owns their own retail business, your cousin who started an event planning service and the game developers who build the apps you use for free. Let’s break it down:

First, free apps and the entrepreneurs and creators who build them. Entrepreneurs and creators rely on advertising to make money, and in turn, provide free content to people — from your morning news to the game you play in line at the coffee shop to that comedy show you watched on Friday night. 

If the entrepreneurs and creators who run these businesses can’t rely on efficient and effective advertising to make money, they’ll be forced to turn to other ways to stay afloat: things like charging people for a subscription or in-app payments. When they do this, you’ll see many of the apps and websites that were once free start charging people for services or disappearing completely. Paying for content may be fine for the well off, but many people just don’t have room in their budget for these fees.

While it’s difficult to quantify the impact to content creators and publishers at this point with so many unknowns, in testing we’ve seen publishers experience more than a 50% drop in revenue when personalization was removed from mobile app ad install campaigns. Publishers and developers have clearly taken notice.

This affects not just app developers, but also small businesses that rely on personalized ads to grow. Here’s why. Small businesses have small budgets. For these small budgets to work, they have to be targeted at the customers that matter to small businesses. It doesn’t do a local wedding planner any good to reach people who aren’t planning a wedding. Likewise, it doesn’t do a small ecommerce outfit selling customized dog leashes any good to reach cat owners. Put simply, by dramatically limiting the effectiveness of personalized advertising, Apple’s policy will make it much harder for small businesses to reach their target audience, which will limit their growth and their ability to compete with big companies.

Case in point, our studies show that when running ads on the Facebook family of apps to drive sales on their websites, small business advertisers saw a cut of over 60% of their sales, on average, for every dollar they spent when they weren’t able to use their own data to find customers on Facebook.(1) We don’t anticipate the proposed iOS 14 changes to cause a full loss of personalization but rather a move in that direction over the longer term. For example, currently a local book store could spend $50 on a relevant and personalized ad and may win five sales. Without the use of their own data to personalize an ad, that business would spend $50 and may win only two sales. 

And yes, there will be an impact to Facebook’s diversified ads business, but it will be much less than what will befall small businesses, and we’ve already been factoring this into our expectations for the business.(2) Many small businesses won’t grow, continue hiring or even survive as a result of an impact of this magnitude. 

And right now small businesses need all the help they can get. During the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses have used personalized advertising to find customers and to help them survive. A new Deloitte study found that 44% of small to medium businesses (SMBs) in the US started using or increased their use of targeted advertising on social media since the pandemic began, and the SMBs that used targeted advertising were twice as likely to report higher revenues. Apple is taking away one of small businesses’ key tools to survive this pandemic.

We believe that personalized ads and user privacy can coexist, without the collateral damage iOS 14 will bring. We, and others in the industry, are investing deeply in solutions that increase privacy while still enabling businesses to thrive online. Unfortunately, Apple is making far-reaching changes without input from the industry and the businesses most impacted. Why? As far as we can see, Apple has another strong motive.

If these changes go through, established businesses with large marketing budgets will have the advantage — once again — taking us back to the age of TV advertising. But the big business that benefits the most is Apple. 

The Reality Behind Apple’s Policy: It’s More About Profit Than Privacy

Apple announced the new iOS 14 AppTrackingTransparency policy under the banner of increased privacy for people, while actually pushing businesses and developers into a business model that benefits Apple’s bottom line in two ways:

  • Apple tax: If content creators have to turn to ways to make money outside of advertising, such as charging people for a subscription or in-app payments, those fees are subject to an Apple tax ranging from 15% to 30%. And this is big business: as Apple’s hardware sales are slowing and they have to pivot to their services business, its App Store platform grossed around $50 billion in 2019. With these changes, Apple stands to profit even more from the App Store. In short, Apple’s update changes mean more money for Apple and less free stuff for people.
  • Apple’s advertising business: Apple’s policies leave very limited options for app developers to find customers through effective advertising, and conveniently, Apple’s own advertising products is one of them. That’s right, Apple’s own personalized ad platform is exempt from the new prompt requirement they’ve imposed on other companies. By default, Apple uses data it collects — including in-app purchase data that Apple collects from within apps owned by other companies — to improve the efficacy of Apple’s own ad products. And, if people don’t want Apple using their data for ads, they’ll have to go find the control deep within their iPhone settings. 

The truth is, these moves are part of Apple’s strategy to expand their fees and services business.

Our Response

We disagree with Apple’s approach and solution, yet we have no choice but to show Apple’s prompt. If we don’t, they will block Facebook from the App Store, which would only further harm the people and businesses that rely on our services. We cannot take this risk on behalf of the millions of businesses who use our platform to grow.

We are doing what we can to prepare our partners and mitigate the impact of Apple’s policy and changing guidance. We’ve provided more detailed guidance for our clients here.

We believe Apple is behaving anti-competitively by using their control of the App Store to benefit their bottom line at the expense of app developers and small businesses. We continue to explore ways to address this concern. 

For example, Facebook is committed to providing relevant information in the Epic Games litigation regarding how Apple’s policies have adversely impacted Facebook and the people and businesses who use our services. Facebook agrees that it is critical for the Court to understand the broader implications of the unfair policies that Apple imposes on iOS developers, among many other businesses.

We will continue to work with industry bodies — including within the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the Partnership for Responsible Addressable Media (PRAM) and World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) — to develop and implement new standards that further protect people’s privacy but do so in a way that keeps content free for people and enables businesses to grow. We hope Apple will collaborate in these efforts with the industry and leave regulations to governments. 

Facebook is committed to standing with small businesses and their use of personalized ads to bring people free content. Join us in supporting small businesses by learning more about Apple’s iOS 14 policy impact and speaking up


1. To understand the impact on small to medium businesses, we compared the aggregated results of advertising campaigns across Facebook’s Family of Apps that used the advertisers’ own data to optimize for purchases on the advertisers’ websites compared to the results of only using the ad platform’s data. The research analysis includes over 25,000 global advertising campaigns where advertisers were optimizing for purchases run in 2019.

2. On our most recent earnings call, we talked about facing more significant targeting and measurement headwinds in 2021, including from iOS 14.

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