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Why Facebook Stock Popped Today

By Rich Smith - Mar 19, 2021 at 12:30PM

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Apple and Instagram for tweens are in the news today.

What happened

Facebook (FB 1.18%) stock is up 4.2% in 11:20 a.m. EDT trading Friday on a pair of positive news reports. In one, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is quoted as playing down the challenge of Apple's (AAPL 0.17%) new App Tracking Transparency tool that prompts users to decline giving Facebook (and other apps) "permission to track you across apps and websites."  

In a second item, Facebook is said to be expanding its potential audience of Instagram users by working up a version of the site suitable for use by children under age 13.  

Arrow angles up on a green stock chart.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Regarding the Apple kerfuffle, Zuckerberg told listeners on voice-chatting app Clubhouse that Facebook will be "able to manage" the disruption from Apple's move and remains "in a good position" despite it. Clarifying his reasoning on CNBC, he explained that if Apple makes it harder to track consumers' behavior online, it will make this harder to track for everyone, including businesses other than Facebook that want insight into consumers' behavior.

"By making it harder for [these other businesses] to use their data in order to find the customers that would want to use their products outside of our platforms," explains Zuckerberg, Apple may actually encourage these businesses to pay Facebook more for its assistance gathering such data.

And regarding the Instagram change, Facebook has apparently made expanding Instagram to the tween and pre-tween set a "priority" for the company. Instagram Product VP Vishal Shah confirmed to BuzzFeed News yesterday that Instagram will be "accelerating our integrity and privacy work to ensure the safest possible experience for teens and ... building a version of Instagram that allows people under the age of 13 to safely use Instagram for the first time."

(By the way, Facebook owns Instagram.)

Now what

Of the two stories, I actually suspect that the Apple news -- this duel between tech titans -- is the more important. Kids aren't dumb, after all. They certainly realize that they can overcome the "age verification challenge" on Instagram by simply entering a birth date that would make them seem old enough to use the app -- if they really want to. Expanding Instagram eligibility really just makes that official, and perhaps gives parents a bit more peace of mind.

On the effects of Apple's iOS14 change, however, and its campaign for greater privacy for its users, it remains to be seen whether Zuckerberg is right or wrong about this being a net positive for Facebook. For the time being, investors appear to be giving him the benefit of the doubt -- and taking heart from the fact that the CEO is at least working the problem, and working on a solution.

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