Now, perhaps more than ever, we are all growing increasingly concerned about how both private and public organisations track our activity online. From an advertiser’s point of view, this information is vital to figuring out consumer spending habits and delivering targeted ads. But for those being targeted, it can feel like an invasion of privacy and a breach of our human rights.
But up until now, growing consumer concern has been met with little reassurance from the world of tech. Which makes the latest update to the Apple operating system all the more surprising. Typically, each new iOS comes with some headline-grabbing features – but we’re not used to seeing anything game-changing from the minor updates – until now.
In recent days, news has broken that iOS 14.5, the latest offering for iPhones and iPads from Apple, will feature a pretty ground-breaking tweak to its privacy settings. Now, for the first time ever, users will be asked if they want to allow apps that they’ve downloaded to track their activity. If they click to opt-out, developers will be unable to keep tabs on their browsing and spending habits.
Currently, something called identifier for advertisers, or IDFA, gives developers access to all manner of information about iPhone and iPad users – and it’s not just limited to activity within their individual app. But when someone opts out using the new iOS 14.5 prompt, this unique code will be replaced by a series of useless zeros.
For those who make a living out of marketing to tech users, it represents a big change. Without IDFA, they will be unable to track things like clicks, downloads, and purchases, leaving a gaping hole in their knowledge of consumer habits and trends. According to some experts, these new changes will leave them unable to measure the effectiveness of advertising campaigns, leaving the entire industry in disarray.
But while advertisers and companies such as Facebook probably aren’t too happy about Apple’s latest move, consumer pressure groups have been full of praise. Before this update, users would need to manually follow a number of steps in order to opt-out of IDFA tracking, meaning that many remained unaware of just how much data was being shared. With iOS 14.5, however, users will need to actively opt-in to tracking – making the entire process a far more transparent one.
But how much will this new update really affect the advertising industry? And will vendors and marketplaces also struggle to find the right audiences without tracking information so readily available? With other manufacturers likely to follow in Apple’s suit, this could be an industry-defining move.