Against the backdrop of a public bombardment of Apple on Facebook over privacy measures, Facebook employees expressed dissatisfaction with the direction of the campaign in comments obtained by BuzzFeed News.
Last week, Facebook launched a campaign in print newspapers, explaining that it “stands in front of Apple for small businesses everywhere” and created a website that encourages people to “speak for small businesses.”
Facebook claims that Apple’s privacy changes in iOS 14, which give users the option to opt out of ad tracking, will affect small businesses that see increased sales from personalized ads. However, some Facebook employees complain about what they perceived to be a self-service campaign.
BuzzFeed News obtained internal comments from one of Facebook’s private message boards and the sound of a presentation for Facebook workers, revealing that there is dissatisfaction among employees about the angle used to attack Apple’s privacy changes. A Facebook engineer, in response to an internal post about the campaign from Facebook advertising chief Dan Levy, said:
It seems that we are trying to justify doing a bad thing by hiding behind people with a nice message.
Before an internal meeting to explain the reason for the campaign against Apple, Facebook employees asked and voted on several questions that focused on the consequences of the campaign on the public image of Facebook. The most popular questions asked were skepticism or concern:
We do not worry that our position protects [small- and medium-sized businesses] will return as people see him as “Facebook protecting their own business”
People want “privacy”, Facebook objecting here will be viewed with cynicism. Did I know this would be a negative PR and I decided to publish anyway?
How do we choose a message that looks less self-serving?
In response, Facebook vice president of product marketing Graham Mudd said the company was “really clear” that Apple’s changes “have a financial impact on us,” in addition to small businesses:
We’re not trying to sweep this under the rug. We are, you know, a big, profitable company and we will go through this and we will adapt our products and so on. But the real people who will be hit by this are the small businesses and that’s why I put them at the center of the message.
Following the presentation, many employees on Facebook proved to be unconvinced. Some did not understand how Apple’s changes would adversely affect small businesses, while one pointed out that Apple’s privacy changes also prevent “malicious actors” from pursuing people:
We will not … we will be the only ones who should be allowed to follow people without their consent – any company can do that, even smaller startups and malicious actors.
The same employee launched a harsh attack on Levy’s job, accompanied by a popular meme with the text “Are we bad?”
The only thing I hear, over and over again, is “this is bad for companies” and I would really like someone at the top to explicitly say “People are better off if they don’t know what we are” we do it, if we don’t have to explain ourselves, if they don’t have the opportunity to choose or give up our practices, if we hide it as much as possible behind the interesting features and get them to accept the right pursuit on the back, so long how much we minimize it. “
Other critics have suggested that Facebook is stimulating the option to track ads in a positive campaign, rather than attacking the option of opt-out or opt-out. Levy responded to critics by explaining that the campaign “simply does not address our business model.”
This is Apple’s marketing that works and convinces us to scapegoat so they can decide how the internet should work – even beyond their devices. I am an optimist working in technology, because I believe that technology can be a lever for democratizing access and providing opportunities. Including for companies. And if you think this will stop with personalized ads … well, then I disagree.
Other employee comments highlighted the witty defense of small businesses as hypocritical, as Facebook has repeatedly disabled advertising accounts for small businesses by mistake and is increasingly using automated customer support, leading to a lot of public complaints from small businesses:
[They] emphasizes that we are probably not doing everything we can to “stand up in front of the little ones [businesses]”When we do not provide human customer support to small advertisers.
Facebook spokeswoman Ashley Zandy responded BuzzFeed News, insisting that the stories of small businesses are Facebook’s priority:
Since launching this effort, we have heard from small businesses literally around the world who are concerned about how these changes could affect their businesses. Because this is such a critical time for [small- and medium-sized businesses], we will continue to share these stories with our audience and employees.
Following the launch of the campaign, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a non-profit organization that defends civil liberties in the digital world, called Facebook’s criticism of the privacy measures related to the pursuit “ridiculous”.