Facebook will show you ads using the same technology that Apple will use to identify child porn

By: Yuriy Stanislavskiy | 12.08.2021, 07:59
Facebook will show you ads using the same technology that Apple will use to identify child porn

The gg editorial board has already mentioned Apple's new initiative to identify photos on users' devices that match a single database of child pornography. The initiative made a lot of noise, and some media have rushed to herald the end of privacy for iOS users. In general, Apple is going to fail, as everybody knows for many years.

Suddenly, we got similar news from Apple's eternal antagonist, social network Facebook. Suddenly it turned out that Mark Zuckerberg's company plans to detect user preferences and target their ads directly to those very users' devices. And, just as suddenly, it's calling this approach a privacy-enhancing method.

Facebook's massive business has been built on the ability to track users across the Internet. But now, thanks to looming regulation and other measures to limit the collection of such data, that's changing. Apple recently introduced a feature on the iPhone that forces developers to ask permission to track users in other apps to target ads.

Facebook said at the time that this approach would likely have a negative impact on its revenue growth. However, Google is already planning something similar for Android phones. The European Union is considering a ban on microtargeted advertising as part of a sweeping legislative proposal called the Digital Services Act, and the Biden administration recently declared an interest in controlling "user surveillance" by "dominant internet platforms."

Facebook's moves, which are still in their early stages, illustrate that the ad-supported internet economy is in the process of being fundamentally reshaped. Along with Google, Facebook is exploring several privacy-enhancing methods to provide personalized ads without knowing anything about the specific people who view them. This is radically different from the way ad targeting has worked online so far.

Facebook's new rhetoric about making ads more private is in some ways admitting defeat for the social network. Last year, Facebook launched a high-profile PR campaign opposing Apple's introduction of ad tracking, arguing that Apple was acting anti-competitively and harming small businesses that rely on advertising to attract customers.

But the campaign ultimately failed, and Facebook is now working on some of the same approaches to data collection that Apple itself is taking, including an initiative to scan users' photo hashes directly on their devices. Given Apple's tight control over iPhones, the two companies are likely to clash on a technology that Facebook is exploring called "on-device learning."

Instead of sending user data to the cloud, an advertising algorithm runs on the phone to determine what kinds of ads someone might find interesting and then show them those ads. From the average person's perspective, this isn't much different from Apple's actions, so it's getting extremely interesting to follow the developments. 

Source: facebook

Illustration: theverge