Facebook to ask permission to track users, in a bid to outmaneuver Apple

Apple users may soon see a question from Facebook on their iPhones and iPads, asking 'permission' to track their activities. It is the latest battle between the social media and tech giants.

Facebook cares about whether it can keep tabs on its nearly three billion users because it's already doing it and making money from the information.

Apple, meantime, is set to put a roadblock in the way of all that, ostensibly, to protect privacy.

The company says its next operating-system update in the Spring, will provide privacy tools aimed at preventing apps from secretly tracking users.

DETAILS: Apple CEO Tim Cook lambasts tech rivals ahead of user privacy update

Taken to the extreme, targeted ads are beginning to resemble the scene from the Tom Cruise movie, 'Minority Report,' where the ads talk directly to consumers. In an online blog, Facebook warns businesses that rely on reaching customers with ads will be harmed.

To get around Apple's move, Facebook is sending a notice to users asking them to specifically 'allow' them to track activity.

Facebook VP of Ads and Business Products, Dan Levy writes, "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."

Houston tech and online marketing expert, Beth Guide, has always been a privacy advocate and a critic of how much personal data is collected as we navigate online. She thinks consumers could be caught in the crossfire.

"Before anybody goes to turn it off, they need to go through their apps to make sure that they come up with an alternative way to use a login, or set that up," says Guide, "Otherwise they're going to break access to things that they may not want to break."


She's talking about the various apps on our phones, that depend on Facebook and other platforms to provide login information to use them. If the tracking gets shut down, the login won't work either. Ultimately, consumers will have to weigh whether their convenience or privacy is more valuable.

"You're using somebody's 'something' for free," Guide points out. "The price you pay is your 'privacy', so are you willing to do that?"

There's a lot of money on the line. An industry estimate pins the value of personal data, from selling, analyzing, and advertising with it, at almost a quarter trillion dollars a year.