With the release of iOS 14.5, Apple turned on their controversial privacy tracking feature. This feature allows users to protect their privacy and block their iPhones unique advertising identifier from being tracked across apps. When this feature was first announced it sent ripples through the advertising industry as this could monumentally change how the industry acts.
The system works by presenting users with a pop-up box asking for their permission to allow the app to track them. Given two options “Allow” and “Ask Not to Track” it seems obvious which option most users will pick. Since the update was released a month ago data analysts have reported that only 12% of users have allowed apps to track them.
Since their inception 14 years ago, smartphones have increasingly become our main computing device. Now in 2021, 52% of web browsing is done through a smartphone or tablet. iOS devices make up 50.4% of the UK smartphone market and those Apple’s privacy feature is going to have some effects on advertising.
Because of these changes it is now harder to target specific users with ads. If a user asks an app not to track them then the iPhone will block that app from being able to access the devices IDFA. This makes it harder to gain information about users and their browsing habits. This means that adverts will be less specialised for users and they are less likely to click on adverts that they find appealing.
While this change does make it harder to track users through smartphone apps, it’s not impossible. Since most users will have some form of social media account it is still possible to link them to an advertising profile when they inevitably use a desktop browser. Since Facebook and Google have such a strong hold on advertising technology, they will still be able to effectively advertise products for those using their services.
A core part of Apple’s identity is that of protecting their user’s privacy and so this is likely not their last attempt at protecting users. Where they go next remains to be seen and in response to Apple’s privacy feature, Google have also announced an upcoming feature for Android that mirrors iOS.
Google is also making changes to how cookies work in their Chrome browser. Moving to a FLoC system in the world’s most popular browser is bound to have ramifications. Google is also the market leader in advertising and so it is in their best interests to ensure this change goes smoothly.
As the battle for privacy rages on, changes are in store for a variety of sectors. Governments are also beginning to lockdown on large tech companies with mounting anti-trust lawsuits in both the EU and US. With all this in mind it’s only a matter of time before something big changes.
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