Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg prepares to testify before a House Energy and Commerce Committee in Rayburn Building on the protection of user data on April 11, 2018.
  • Facebook is warning that Apple's planned privacy protections will severely damage part of its business.
  • Apple plans to make it harder for apps to track users' data without their consent in iOS 14.
  • Facebook says this could severely hurt its Audience Network ad network, reducing revenues by up to 50%.
  • Audience Network is just one part of Facebook's broader ad business, and the company also says it will hurt businesses that use it.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Apple is making it harder for companies to track people's data across apps — and Facebook is warning that it could have devastating effects on part of its business.

On Wednesday, the Silicon Valley-headquartered social networking giant published a blog post decrying changes Apple has planned for iOS 14, its upcoming mobile operating system. Apple intends to prevent apps from tracking users using their unique device identifier (IDFA) without their explicit permission — something that Facebook's Audience Network uses to personalize advertising in third-party apps.

Facebook says that doing so will have a significant impact on Audience Network, cutting its revenues on iOS by up to 50% because of its inability to deliver more valuable, targeted advertising. It may even force Facebook to stop developing Audience Network for iOS altogether, the company said.

"This is not a change we want to make, but unfortunately Apple's updates to iOS 14 have forced this decision. We know this may severely impact publishers' ability to monetize through Audience Network on iOS 14, and, despite our best efforts, may render Audience Network so ineffective on iOS 14 that it may not make sense to offer it on iOS 14 in the future," it wrote in its blog post.

Audience Network is only one piece of Facebook's revenue (it's unclear precisely how much), and its core business of advertising inside its own apps will be unaffected. But any attempt to curtail data collection can pose a threat to Facebook, and the company has been vocal recently about the risks that regulators and platform changes pose.

During a recent earnings call with analysts, company executives argued that Facebook was a "lifeline" for small businesses during the pandemic, and preventing them from effectively targeting people with ads could have dangerous "macro-economic effects."

It's an argument that Facebook reiterated in its Wednesday blog post: "We understand that iOS 14 will hurt many of our developers and publishers at an already difficult time for businesses. We work with more than 19,000 developers and publishers from around the globe and in 2019 we paid out billions of dollars. Many of these are small businesses that depend on ads to support their livelihood."

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