There are obvious ethical implications here, but more officially, Meta Pixel violates Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) policy. ATT requires that apps get permission from individual users before tracking them across sites owned by other companies—something Meta allegedly didn’t do.
The moment you visit a third-party site within Instagram or Facebook, you’re being tracked by Meta Pixel. (Photo: Gabrielle Henderson/Unsplash)
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday by two Facebook users and first spotted by Bloomberg Law, alleges Meta knowingly dodged Apple’s ATT policy when it implemented and maintained Meta Pixel. “This allows Meta to intercept, monitor, and record its users’ interactions and communications with third parties, providing data to Meta that it aggregates, analyzes, and uses to boost its advertising revenue,” the lawsuit reads. This motion closely follows a similar class action suit filed last week (Mitchell v. Meta Platforms, Inc.), in which a user alleged Meta Pixel violates the Wiretap Act and other laws protecting individual privacy.
That the plaintiffs suspect Meta of having introduced Meta Pixel to boost ad revenue is no surprise: It takes a lot of time and money to build a custom in-app browser like Meta’s, and the company would have needed a pretty decent motive to dedicate those resources to the browser over literally anything else.
It’s also not particularly surprising that Meta Pixel exists in the first place. Beyond Meta’s (previously Facebook’s) lengthy history of privacy violations, the company has publicly opposed ATT from the start. Meta’s biggest criticism was that ATT would harm businesses (which, it must be noted, are essential to Meta’s aforementioned ad revenue). From the looks of it, it’s clear that Meta griped about ATT in public and found a way to skirt it in private.