As the privacy war on advertising continues to ramp up, Apple’s latest rollout of privacy-enhancing features included the option to deny apps the ability to track you across other websites and apps. It does this by restricting the app from seeing your unique identifier for advertisers (IDFA). The IDFA is the only way for apps to accurately track users within iOS apps.
As apps update and are forced to ask the question, you’ll either see nothing at all because the option to even ask has been turned off (which means by default, the app cannot see your IDFA, or ask to), or you’ll get pop up like in the image to right. It’s social media platforms that stand to see the greatest impact from this feature.
You’ve got two options:
Ask App Not To Track – Blocks access to your IDFA.
Allow – Allows access to your IDFA.
Initial analysis for people allowing tracking, reported by analytics firm Flurry, is only 4% for US users, and 12% for global.
That’s very low, but it’s worth taking into consideration that for most people, the option to even allow apps to ask to track is turned off by default. Personally, I turned the option on for allowing apps to request as I was interested to see just how many were trying, and whether based on their use cases, it was even warranted.
I also think it’s important to have the choice, and that’s what Apple is trying to achieve here. It’s giving control back to the users to choose how their data is used, and by who. That’s why Facebook has been so outwardly furious about the update. I won’t go into too much detail on the response from Facebook as it’s been covered a lot recently, but alongside the full page ads they rolled out in the press, they’ve also implemented some splash screens for users which try and convince them to allow access to that all-important IDFA.
A fair amount of pressure in the reasonings there, but unsurprisingly, they omitted the impact on their bottom-line. Supporting businesses that rely on ads to reach customers is very important, but rather than work around the changes (even after Apple paused the rollout for 6 months to allow extra time to prepare), Facebook instead stomped its feet and now it’s too late. I also believe that we’re past the point of Facebook being able to provide a paid version of the platforms because I think people wouldn’t be reassured that the invasive tracking would stop anyway. That and every 4th post/story on Facebook/Instagram is an advert driving revenue for them.
That’s the SEO in me speaking because we are constantly adapting to changes dictated by other companies so we can keep providing the best results for our client in organic search. We don’t say “Nah, Google is trying to destroy small businesses who rely on ranking highly in organic search results, so we’re not doing anything”. Google doesn’t care. It’s rolling them out anyway, and some may argue “yes but they’re not making money from organic”, but they are from all the ads, the retargeting opportunities etc.
Can Personalised Advertising Exist Whilst Protecting User Privacy?
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes x 100. That’s the most frustrating thing about this whole saga. Facebook, who let’s be honest, doesn’t exactly have the best track record with treating user data in the right ways, could have been leading this charge, supporting it, and it would have worked towards putting them back in favour with users after numerous data scandals (Cambridge Analytica anyone?!).
It starts with the death of the third-party cookie, the type that follows you from website to website. As the decline continues, and the switch to advertising based on first-party cookies grows, what we’ll see is a balanced mix of still personalised and effective advertising, but at the same time allowing users control of their own data and privacy. It will allow much better control in enabling the user rights under GDPR and being able to control that in a single place, rather than have to opt-out of hundreds of different trackers.
It will be a welcome change, and something the industry has to adapt to because the sheer amount of information websites can collect now and utilise without people really knowing is unsustainable.
I loaded a localised VPN onto my iPhone in the past week which blocked all tracking attempts just as a test to see how many there were. The results as of right now, for the past 7 days are:
- 212,000 tracking requests.
- 208,000 of which were encrypted.
- 1679 different companies tried to track me.
That is a LOT. The push into more data-sensitive advertising cannot come quick enough, and in the end, it’ll benefit everybody from the users, to advertisers and publishers. A world where personalised ads and privacy can co-exist is achievable.