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Apple iOS 14 restricts ad tracking: what does it mean?

Charlotte Needham
Apple iOS 14 restricts ad tracking

In September 2020, Apple rolled out its new mobile operating system, iOS 14. The update brought new features for user privacy, including some that are not so popular with app advertisers.

Among other privacy updates, app developers are now required to request permission to collect a user’s IDFA (identification for advertisers) number – but what does this really mean for in-app advertising?

what is a user’s IDFA? 

An IDFA is a combination of numbers and letters that allows advertisers to identify the user of a device. Each device has its own unique IDFA, which advertisers use to measure campaign performance and run personalised and targeted advertising.

how is an IDFA used? 

Platforms like Google Analytics rely on IDFAs to measure ad performance and implement features such as frequency capping, attribution, ad targeting, retargeting and click fraud. 

These metrics and features allow advertisers to effectively measure performance and optimise campaigns.

iOS 14 limited ad tracking

With the new software update, app developers are now required to ask users’ permission to track their IDFA. This is shown in the form of a popup that appears when you first launch the app.

The user can choose to either allow tracking or to ask the app not to track. If the user decides to ask the app not to track, then their IDFA will be zeroed out.

Developers are given a small amount of space to explain why the user should allow the tracking within the popup – but it’s most likely that users will ask the app not to track, due to increasing worries around privacy. 

It’s estimated that IDFA accessibility will drop to only around 10%-20% of iOS devices

what does it mean for in-app advertising? 

Luckily, Apple realises the value of this and has created an API (SKAdNetwork) to help advertisers measure the success of their campaigns while maintaining the privacy of the user. The API involves three participants: 

  • Ad networks, that sign the ads and receive notifications when the ad results in a conversion
  • Source apps, which display signed ads within them
  • Advertising apps – the apps that are being advertised in the signed ad

Ad networks must register with Apple, and developers must configure their apps to work with ad networks.

When a user clicks on an ad, installs the app and launches it, the device will send a postback to the ad network – which includes the campaign ID but doesn’t include user or device-specific data. The postback may include a conversion value and the source app’s ID if Apple determines that providing the values meets Apple’s privacy threshold.

More detailed information about apple SKAdNetwork can be found here.

With this API in place, advertisers are able to measure their campaign performance effectively – although it does not allow for retargeting, attribution for specific users, view-through attribution for installs and impressions statistics, or for additional conversion reports.

Ultimately, it will not affect the success of campaigns, but it does limit the data that is available to the advertiser.

Advertisers have already been through the implementation of GPDR and cookie policies once before and it’s no surprise that Apple has implemented more options to the user regarding their data and how it is used.

These types of changes are just part of the ever-changing digital landscape which advertisers are constantly navigating and adjusting to.

contact the experts

If you’re concerned about losing valuable data or need assistance to stay compliant with Apple, we can help! Speak to a member of the Rooster team today.

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