In today's world, data is king. Every move we make online means companies like Facebook and Google fill their data coffers, creating treasure troves of information to sell to advertisers. As a marketing firm, we appreciate the value of data and how that benefits clients. But we also know data privacy is growing in importance, and companies need to be prepared.

Facebook is at the centre of the data privacy debate, and now it's drawn a formidable enemy onto the battlefield: Apple Inc. Unlike Facebook, Apple earns its trillions in product sales. It, too, collects data. But it doesn't rely on this practice for profit, and has long supported consumer data privacy. In 2019, CEO Tim Cook warned about "companies irresponsibly amassing huge user profiles". The latest iPhone operating system, iOS 14, aims to curb this practice and give its users control over their data with its App Activity Tracker (ATT). The feature will force apps to explicitly ask iPhone users for access to any app-related data that can track them or their mobile device.

Well, we’re not surprised that Facebook has rallied hard against ATT. It is crying about the negative impact ATT will have on its Audience Network should iPhone users opt-out. The network lets advertisers extend their reach beyond Facebook by displaying their ads to customers using other mobile sites and apps. The loss in profits may be small for the billion-dollar platform. But ATT will also force companies to tell users exactly how much information they're tracking and how they monetize that data. In short, Apple is giving iPhone users a glimpse into how the sausage is made and Facebook fears that most iPhone users won't be able to stomach it.

Their concerns aren't unfounded. Industry experts believe most iPhone users will opt-out, changing the digital marketing landscape in iPhone-saturated places like the United States. Apple isn't doing away with tracking altogether, but Facebook is baulking at having to request permission, which won’t improve their already shaky reputation in privacy.

How all of this will impact Jamaica remains to be seen. iPhones now make up less than a quarter of Jamaica's mobile landscape, so ATT's influence may be less striking here. However, Google is updating its privacy policy to limit third-party cookies in Google Chrome, Jamaica's most popular internet browser. While they are taking a phased approach for this, Apple’s Safari browser already blocks cookies by default.  So we’re at their mercy any way you look at it.

Critics say while targeted marketing is useful, it’s not the only route to success. As Cook noted in a thinly-veiled critique of Facebook, "Technology does not need vast troves of personal data stitched together across dozens of websites and apps in order to succeed. Advertising existed and thrived for decades without it."