App Tracking Transparency will soon be enabled on Apple iOS 14 products by default. This post outlines new app development and privacy changes and what impacts these will have on advertising.
Change is coming to Apple’s AppStore. In the next iOS Beta, developers will need to comply with the new AppTrackingTransparency framework before they submit their apps. No compliance, no app, says Apple—apps that don’t abide by these rules will face removal from the App Store. But owners of mobile apps are rapidly running out of time to ensure their apps are ready.
What is App Tracking Transparency?
App Tracking Transparency is part of Apple’s new efforts to promote data privacy via transparency in the AppStore. While initially announced at WWDC in June, no information was available until September of 2020, when Apple updated their app developer guidelines. Apple deferred the privacy efforts to give the industry time to adjust their apps until early 2021.
Since then, the first phase of this effort has occurred, as, in December of 2020, Apple began to require privacy practices disclosures on the AppStore pages.
Apps are thus required to self disclose data collection and use practices as part of the app submission process. Should Apple find that this information is inaccurate, they’ll seek to have it updated, but failure to do so may result in removal from the Apple Store until the app is compliant with the guidelines.
In the next beta (sometime soon), the second phase will occur, where the consent prompting for tracking efforts will become mandatory for apps prior to tracking, in alignment with the guidelines.
The IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers) will be hidden behind this prompt. Per the guidelines and explainer, multiple conditions restrict data collection unless the user has granted permission to allow tracking.
How to prepare for App Tracking Transparency
There are multiple steps required to ensure your app is ready for the new world we’re about to enter.
- Have a list of all the data collected by your app and its 3rd party SDKs (you may have to reach out to SDK vendors for this information).
- Assess and Classify this data as per the App Store requirements for the type of data and use scenarios.
- Determine, based on these scenarios, where you should prompt for consent in the app.
- Refactor the app to add the consent dialog(s) and adjust loading of SDKs–or firing of data calls–to respect the consent selection.
- Submit the updated App to the AppStore, using the data classifications from step 2 to self-disclose the data collection and use it as part of the app submission.
App Tracking Transparency effects for Google users
If your app uses Google’s SDKs for advertising, in addition to the above, you should be aware of Google’s Advice for Partners. Google recommends that you update Mobile Ads SDK to version 7.64 to support SkAdNetwork (Apple’s new privacy-preserving ad system).
Google also states:
“Advertisers running Display, Video and other campaigns promoting web-based conversion goals may see performance fluctuations as Apple’s ATT policies go into effect. During this time, we will be expanding modeled conversions to more iOS 14 traffic.”
Of particular interest is the fact that they expect to model conversions more for iOS 14 traffic, i.e., instead of reporting the numbers directly (since they may be wrong), they’re going to provide estimates. It may be useful to review any marketing plans and targets in light of these restrictions.
For their part, Google has elected not to track users and will discontinue using the IDFA in their apps going forward.
App Tracking Transparency effects for Facebook’s ad platform users
Users of Facebook’s ad platform need to be cautious as well, as Facebook has been predicting upwards of 50% revenue loss for publishers from the changes.
Facebook has updated their apps, regardless, as a loss of the app store audience would dramatically affect their business lines. Like Google, they’ve adjusted their apps to no longer track users or use the IDFA in light of Apple’s requirements.
They have also released information for advertisers on their platform, explaining the limits now imposed by the iOS 14 updates in depth. Marketing teams leveraging Facebook’s platform for ads need to understand and adjust their plans in light of these restrictions.
Technically, app owners should upgrade to Update to Facebook’s SDK for iOS 14 version 8.1. However, there are many further steps for running and measuring campaigns and more attribution windows to be aware of, and we encourage anyone leveraging Facebook to review these changes.
When do developers have to make these changes?
According to Apple’s Developer Update on January 28th, 2021, these changes should happen as soon as possible. Realistically, we expect to see something in February, based on the release timelines since iOS 14’s release this past September. We do acknowledge that this may be wrong, as no official timeline has been provided, but Apple has been clear it will happen in Q1 2021, and time is rapidly running out.