How Apple’s Ask Not to Track Update Affects Developers

Updated: Nov 23

A lot of our clients have been asking about how Apple‘s iOS 14.5 update will affect their apps. If you‘ve seen the news, you know that this update has upset many large tech giants such as Facebook. But why exactly are developers so upset about this update?


Long story short, it hurts their business model. Many free software and mobile app platforms make money by serving ads. Some of these ads are displayed through third-party platforms (such as Google AdMob), while others are shown directly from the developer themselves. iOS 14.5 gives users the choice now as to if developers are allowed to track them.





Side note: you can also listen to our podcast episode on this topic as well! (See video below)


So what exactly does this do that hurts developers? What it comes down to is the ability to use a users device’s IDFA.

As Apple states:


If you see a request to track your activity, you can tap Allow or Ask App Not to Track. You can still use the full capabilities of the app, regardless of whether you allow the app to track your activity.


The app developer can customize part of the message to explain why the app is asking to track your activity. You can also visit the app’s product page in the App Store for more details about how the app developer uses your data. If you choose Ask App Not to Track, the app developer can’t access the system advertising identifier (IDFA), which is often used to track. The app is also not permitted to track your activity using other information that identifies you or your device, like your email address.





What exactly does Apple mean by "tracking"?


Apple defines tracking as the following:


"Tracking” refers to linking data collected from your app about a particular end-user or device, such as a user ID, device ID, or profile, with Third-Party Data for targeted advertising or advertising measurement purposes, or sharing data collected from your app about a particular end-user or device with a data broker."





What this means is that if a user does not allow an app to track, then a developer does not have access to that user’s activity via their IDFA. Meaning, that they cannot show targeted ads. What companies, such as Facebook are so up set about is that they claim targeted ads are an essential part of their business model. Being able to show targeted ads increases the likelihood of someone clicking on it. It was estimated that before this update to iOS about 70% of users shared their IDFA. Now it is estimated that only 10% to 15% share their IDFA.

So how does this affect most developers? Most developers probably use the IDFA to display ads in their app via third party providers such as Google AdMob. What this means is if a user chooses to not allow tracking in your app, Apple will block the IDFA and therefore Google AdMob (for example) will not be able to display targeted ads to that user. It is basically web cookies, but for mobile apps.



So if Amy App User was just recently shopping on a mobile app for new shoes, the app would not be able to know about this information and therefore not be able to display targeted ads for the shoes Amy was just shopping for on another app. It does not mean that ads cannot be shown in the app. It just means that your app cannot use the IDFA to gather tracked information from that user to display a targeted advertisement. Nor can the app track a user‘s activity and store it somewhere else in a way that that information can be linked to a user’s device or some sort of information that can be used to identify the user, such as email.

This may also affect analytics tracking. For example, Google Analytics uses a device’s IDFA to track certain information. This information would no longer be able be tracked by Google Analytics should a user not allow tracking.



We know that this is a big change, but we hope this blog post helps you get a better understanding of the privacy changes that have been made with iOS 14.5.

For more information visit Apple’s website: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT212025


For more information on how this affects Google products that developers use (such as Google Analytics, Google AdMob, Firebase etc) please visit this site here: https://firebase.google.com/docs/ios/supporting-ios-14






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