From left: Apple's Tim Cook, Erik Neuenschwander, Craig Federighi, Eddy Cue and Phil Schiller. Photos by Bloomberg. Art by Mike Sullivan
March 14, 2022 6:00 AM PDT

For years, Apple CEO Tim Cook has been the most vocal privacy champion among all of big tech’s top leaders. But within Apple, a decision to curtail ad tracking of iPhone users in 2020 sparked an intense debate about just how far to push privacy changes poised to upend the digital advertising industry.

On one side of the discussions was Craig Federighi, Apple’s software chief. He oversaw a team of privacy-minded engineers who wanted to curtail the powers of an Apple tool that unscrupulous advertising companies, mobile developers and data brokers were exploiting to track the behavior of iPhone users, according to people with direct knowledge of the discussions. On the other side were groups reporting to Eddy Cue, head of Apple’s services and advertising businesses, and Philip Schiller, then the company’s top marketing executive, who led its App Store. Cue's and Schiller's teams argued for more-cautious action against the tool, given that many developers relied on it for advertising revenue. Schiller's group also worried about potential damage to App Store revenues, though Schiller himself was in agreement with Federighi and his team, the people said.

In the end, the Apple leaders reached a solution. The company required app developers to ask users whether they wanted to allow their online activities to be tracked across websites and apps operated by companies other than the developer. Developers couldn’t use the tool anymore to track users who opted out but instead had to rely on an inferior system developed by Apple that better protected user privacy. For many companies in digital advertising, the impact of Apple’s changes—which the company began to enforce last April—has been seismic. That’s especially true for Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms, which expects the changes to shave $10 billion off its revenues this year because of their impact on the company’s prodigious data collection practices.

Get access to exclusive coverage
Read deeply reported stories from the largest newsroom in tech.
Latest Articles
 
The Weekend Startups AI
The Shaky Mental State of Silicon Valley
The Shaky Mental State of Silicon Valley
Hi, welcome to your Weekend! Next month, when the San Francisco Board of Supervisors reconvenes after its summer recess, one of the matters up for discussion will be a resolution to decriminalize the use of psychedelics. While San Franciscans have never needed Board approval to partake in the wonders of nature, you can bet plenty of tech workers around town will be rooting for a yay...
Latest Briefs
 
Peloton Announces Job Cuts, Store Closures and Price Hikes
South Korea’s Mirae Asset Management Led $250 million SpaceX Investment
Founder of Crypto Exchange Houbi in Talks to Sell Stake for $1 Billion
Stay in the know
Receive a summary of the day's top tech news—distilled into one email.
Access on the go
View stories on our mobile app and tune into our weekly podcast.
Join live video Q&A’s
Deep-dive into topics like startups and autonomous vehicles with our top reporters and other executives.
Enjoy a clutter-free experience
Read without any banner ads.
Art by Josh Brill
Exclusive Asia Startups
TikTok’s $4 Billion Advertising Machine Is Messy Behind the Scenes
Two years ago, social media sensation TikTok came up with a slogan to prod brands to be more authentic in their advertisements on the app: “Don’t Make Ads.
Viral Patel, global head of technology investing for Blackstone Credit. Art by Clark Miller.
Exclusive Venture Capital Startups
Blackstone Plans to Back Tech Startups in $2 Billion–Plus Lending Push
Private equity giant Blackstone is gearing up to make its first major push into lending to startups and technology companies—joining a corner of the debt market that’s quickly heating up.
Illustration by Clark Miller
Man v. Machine AI
Can Creatives Survive the Future War Against Dall-e 2?
Earlier this year, Karen X. Cheng, a video director in San Francisco, was commissioned by a client to make an augmented reality dress for special events.
Art by Clark Miller.
Venture Capital Startups
Venture Capital’s Limited Partners Warn of Fundraising Slowdown
The era of easy money could be over for venture capital firms. Although VC fundraising has so far matched last year’s brisk pace, limited partners—the people and institutions that invest in VC funds—say a slowdown is afoot.
Photo by Alaska Air Group.
Facebook
For Meta’s Next CFO Susan Li, Metaverse Dreams Mean Real-World Challenges
When Meta Platforms reported its first-ever quarterly revenue decline last month, the Facebook parent company also made a key promotion with little fanfare: 36-year-old finance executive Susan Li would become chief financial officer in the fall, replacing longtime CFO Dave Wehner, who held the role for eight years and would transition to a strategy role.
Enterprise Power List Venture Capital Enterprise
Introducing The Information’s Enterprise Tech Power List
The biggest battle in tech is happening where most consumers can’t see it: the cloud. And a new cast of executives and investors are increasingly calling the shots—making decisions about the future of the battle with trillions of dollars at stake.