Apple CEO Tim Cook has set a deadline for new iPhone data-collecting rules—changes that have Ad Tech companies bracing for a profound shift in the way they collect consumer data.
The iPhone maker plans to roll out more aggressive privacy measures in its iOS 14 update. Tech companies and advertisers are expected to be the hardest hit as the changes limit the amount of data apps can obtain about their users.
The changes, which Apple says are coming in “early spring,” will introduce a mandatory pop-up prompt asking for user permission before an app can track users across different apps and websites. Apple announced the changes last year but delayed the rollout after pushback from developers. The new privacy controls will affect Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), which assigns a unique number to a user's mobile device. An app must obtain explicit permission from users through a popup for app publishers to use the IDFA to track them across different apps and websites, or to share that information with third parties.
The fight is no surprise to some. “Most organizations haven’t experienced a seismic shift in the way an industry works,” says Nii Ahene, chief strategy officer at Tinuiti, an online ad performance and marketing agency. The changes have been a long time coming, and were telegraphed early and often, Ahene says. “This is immensely frustrating for me since we’ve been talking about this since July.”
Apple’s move was praised by privacy-minded corners of the tech industry. “By putting it at the point of use, it gives you control on how to handle data,” says Kaili Lambe, senior US campaigner at Mozilla. “I think this is one of the first times the user is given control, and it’s on by default,” says Lambe. “It’s setting the standard for how users should have control over the data—it should be easy to use, easy to understand, and not complex to research.”
Some companies are trying to make the best of the situation. Ajit Thupil, chief product officer at Tapad, says some app developers are testing language for the prompt to see what wording will convince users of the benefits of accepting the changes. “If you are not prepared, and you use language that does not give you the best shot of people signing up, then you run into issues,” said Thupil.