Sometimes I feel that I use this space to relay only bad news. I rage about lousy customer service and vent about idiocy in marketing. Well, not today. Nope. I have some good news, at least from a consumer perspective. Frankly, from a marketer and application developer perspective, it sucks, but that’s life, I guess.
Apple released the details about the latest version of iOS yesterday. I’m not an Apple fanboy and I don’t own an iPhone. However, I think this announcement is a big step forward in many ways. You see, this new version of iOS will offer new privacy features, including one that could make it harder for ad-tech companies to track users.
When an app that’s installed on the phone wants to track them for ad purposes, the phone will let the user know and will ask people to either allow or prohibit tracking by that app. If you choose not to have an app track you, the system won’t let the app grab the identifier for advertising (IDFA) — an alphanumeric string that allows developers to track mobile users across different apps. My Android phone has something similar but it’s really a binary yes/no choice for all apps and not set at the app level. What Apple is doing is a step forward in improving our privacy.
Needless to say, the Network Advertising Initiative criticized Apple’s move. They say that it will make life harder for app developers since it will be harder to make money via ads. They say this could lead to developers having to charge for apps or for in-app content. I realize I might not be typical, but I do pay for apps that I find useful, especially if that removes the advertising. A few bucks a year for something I regularly use is, in my way of thinking, a fair exchange of value. Tracking me without my permission and selling the data is not.
Apple did something similar to this in their Safari browser a year ago. You would expect Apple to lead the change on privacy with respect to ads because unlike Google or Microsoft, their business isn’t based in the advertising world. Their hardware isn’t a secondary line as it is with others. Is this going to have others doing the same? Maybe not, but since third-party cookies have disappeared and now tracking is more difficult on a significant portion of the installed mobile base, other changes in how privacy in the ad business works are sure to follow. Stay tuned!