Have you been enjoying Facebook and Instagram for all of these years under the assumption that your experience on the platform has been and would be totally free of charge? Me too. But it looks like that might not be something set in stone for the two social media platforms. According to some recent moves by the giants, your data privacy might come at a cost when it comes to using the platforms. That’s because both Facebook and Instagram are threatening to charge users if they don’t allow the apps to “see” what’s going on with searches and other data usage.
This *threat* from Facebook and Instagram came in the form of a prompt when new versions of the app are going to be installed on a phone or device. The details revolve around folks upgrading their iPhones to iOS version 14.5. In this update, apps must ask express permission to be able to track users from the app to websites they visit. This practice, as it were, is often critical for apps to remarket to users, seeing what they search for and then finding relevant ads to place on the respective app. Because many users will likely opt-out of this practice, Facebook and Instagram appear worried about their bottom lines when it comes to user tracking. Check it out:
Do Facebook and Instagram explicitly say they are going to charge you if you opt to retain your data privacy? Not in so many words. But the intention and subtext are pretty clear here. This is a definitive reminder that the only way the apps are “free” right now, according to the companies, is if they can track users and then give them targeted ads. Are Facebook and Instagram asking for money upfront in the form of a subscription? No. But they are saying (without saying) that if enough users don’t opt in to the data tracking there’s a chance the apps would no longer be free for all.
In this message, Facebook and Instagram try to give an explanation for why they’d want to be in the data privacy and tracking game. They claim to rely on the information gained from accessing user data across the app and websites to make more informative and relevant ad placement on the apps. They can’t know what to show you unless you show them first is the line of thinking here. And there’s also a call to help support small businesses in this way. With ad placement sometimes imperative for businesses to maximize user growth and revenue, Facebook and Instagram want to make those the best placement possible. How else other than know what a user is searching for elsewhere?
This might end up being an inflection point for data privacy practices going forward on apps like Facebook and Instagram. If enough users opt out of the tracking then they will be, likely, forced to pivot in some meaningful way to optimize ad revenue moving forward. Though they are moderately threatening to make paid options a thing, there’s more just a reminder here that the apps are free now because of privacy practices put in place before. If there are companies who can figure out how to make money under the new guidelines without offering a subscription fee, these are the ones to do it.