Apple has accused Facebook of harvesting vast amounts of data from users and disregarding their privacy amid a growing row between two of the world’s biggest tech firms.

As part of a response to pressure from campaigners, Apple hit out at the social network for exploiting users to maximise its profits.

Jane Hovarth, the $2 trillion (£1.5 trillion) company’s head of privacy, said: “Facebook executives have made clear their intent is to collect as much data as possible… to develop and monetise detailed profiles of their users, and this disregard for user privacy continues to expand to include more of their products.”

Apple is planning to launch a new feature in its iOS software that will force app makers to ask permission before sharing unique digital identifiers which allow users to be tracked by advertisers such as Facebook.

The planned feature – called App Tracking Transparency – was delayed earlier this year, leading to demands from activists to bring it forward.

Apple vowed in its response to make the change in 2021 and also launched a broadside against the online advertising industry.

Jane Horvath, Apple’s head of privacy, said: “Tracking can be invasive, even creepy, and more often than not it takes place without  meaningful user awareness or consent.”

The firm said that hyper-targeted online advertising has only emerged in the last decade. Ms Horvath added that Apple wants to champion privacy-focused advertising which does not micro-target online ads at a specific user.

Ms Horvath said: “Facebook and others have a very different approach to targeting. Not only do they allow the grouping of users into smaller segments, they use detailed data about online browsing activity to target ads."

The scathing comments about its rival come after Facebook executives engaged in an increasingly hostile war of words against Apple over its plans to launch the anti-tracking feature.

Facebook and other advertisers believe this will cut revenues, as consumers will be prompted not to share data that would allow them to be shown targeted ads from their web activity.

In August, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg said Apple had a “unique stranglehold as a gatekeeper on what gets on phones” and had been able to charge “monopoly rents”.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.