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Meta is accused of using a secret AppTrackingTransparency workaround

The news: Meta is facing a class action lawsuit for implementing a workaround for Apple’s AppTrackingTransparency in its in-app browsers on Facebook and Instagram.

  • The proposed lawsuit alleges that Meta injects its own tracking code into its in-app browser, allowing it access to information about what users do on third-party sites down to passwords, history, searches, and individual searches.
  • Under Apple’s ATT policy, users have to opt in for apps to access that kind of information. But Meta’s workaround allowed it to scrape users’ data without notifying them.

A familiar problem: The lawsuit and revelation that it’s been working around ATT is the latest in a long string of privacy mishaps from Meta, both before and after the post-AppTrackingTransparency era, that are eroding advertiser faith in the platform.

  • Meta is one of the companies hardest hit by the ATT change: In February, CFO David Wehner said the company expected to lose $10 billion in revenue this year. That prediction is coming true before our eyes: The company is reporting significant dips in ad revenue and is undergoing a major pivot to short-form video to compensate.
  • But part of the problem is that Meta’s various attempts at a post-ATT attribution solution have crashed and burned.
  • Last fall, Meta revealed that an ad bug had produced underreported results for most of the year. In April, a study from North Carolina State University found that Facebook was incorrectly attributing user interests 29% of the time.
  • More recently, its tracking tool Facebook Pixel was revealed to be collecting sensitive user information from hospitals, potentially exposing them to costly lawsuits for HIPAA violations—and adding another class action suit to Meta’s docket.

The big takeaway: It’s time to stop trying to work around ATT’s new normal. Even though the policy has its own monopolistic qualities, regulation is on the side of privacy; regulators are unlikely to threaten ATT or drop their interest in privacy regulation.

  • For Meta, it’s time to move on. The company has to find a post-ATT solution that can give advertisers the results they need while also kowtowing to the permanent changes in the privacy landscape.

This article originally appeared in Insider Intelligence's Marketing & Commerce Briefing—a daily recap of top stories reshaping the retail and marketing industries. Subscribe to have more hard-hitting takeaways delivered to your inbox daily.