Apple privacy changes hammer social media stocks beyond Meta

·Technology Editor
·3 min read

Shares of Facebook parent company Meta (FB) sank to a 52-week low on Thursday, following a disappointing Q4 earnings report and news that the social networking giant is struggling to contain the damage from Apple’s (AAPL) iOS privacy changes called App Tracking Transparency (ATT).

But the damage wasn’t just contained to Meta. The blast radius from revelations that Apple’s ATT will take a $10 billion bite out of Meta’s revenue enveloped the social network’s peers as well — shares of Twitter (TWTR), Snap (SNAP), and Pinterest (PINS) fell in early trading.

Snap in particular took a beating, dropping nearly 20% to $25.44 a share after the open Thursday. Twitter was down more than 7% to $33.86, while Pinterest fell 8% to $25.10.

Meta’s Q4 was disappointing thanks to a miss on earnings per share. But it was the news that the company will continue to feel the sting from ATT for years to come, not to mention growth that’s slowed to a trickle and heavy investments in the metaverse that weighed on investors.

Apple introduced ATT in iOS 14.5 in April 2021. The feature allows users to choose if they want their apps to track their activity across the web via a piece of Apple-built software called IDFA, or Identifier for Advertisers. IDFA is a randomized identifier that lets apps determine what you’ve been browsing across websites and other apps. And it’s an incredibly helpful tool for companies like Meta and Snap.

Prior to the introduction of ATT, apps could gather more information about users as they browsed the internet, giving those platforms, and their ad tracking technologies, an impressively accurate understanding of users’ interests.

With ATT, however, apps need permission to track users via IDFA. And since most users choose not to be tracked, those apps are now cut off from much of that data. Apple has introduced a new tracking feature that the company says protects user privacy, but app developers like Meta say it’s not as effective as IDFA.

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel in particular has warned about the challenges ATT poses to the company’s ad capabilities.

“While we anticipated some degree of business disruption, the new Apple-provided measurement solution did not scale as we had expected, making it more difficult for our advertising partners to measure and manage their ad campaigns for iOS,” Spiegel said during the company’s Q3 earnings call. Snap is set to report its Q4 results on Thursday.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing regarding the company's use and protection of user data on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing regarding the company's use and protection of user data on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 11, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Google parent company Alphabet (GOOG, GOOGL), however, has remained relatively unscathed by ATT. That’s because the company is able to track user information based on what users search for. So rather than having to pull data from other apps and websites via IDFA, Google can simply use information about what people are looking up in search to target them with ads.

According to Evercore ISI senior managing director Mark Mahaney, Google’s work to build out its own advertising capabilities has paid off handsomely.

“[Google] had very little exposure to IDFA and has invested very aggressively in constantly improving both YouTube, and its core search business,” Mahaney told Yahoo Finance Live.

For companies like Meta, Snap, Twitter, and Pinterest, however, the future is looking cloudier. And until they can address the loss of data from Apple’s privacy changes, that will remain so for some time.

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