iOS 15 users must have received prompts from the Apple App Store asking permission to serve ‘Personalized Ads’ which was earlier enabled by default.
So, what does Apple’s Personalized Ads Feature mean?
Personalized ads are Apple’s way to serve relevant ads in the App Store and Apple News based on what you read, search, and purchase on Apple devices.
Apple rolling out the new prompt to ask permission is a big deal but there is a catch.
The company used to earlier collect information by default and users had to navigate multiple levels in the settings to disable it which is contradicting Apple’s privacy-first image. So, users using iOs14 and older versions still have the personalized ads feature enabled by default.
How Does The New Consent Prompt Work?
If you are running the recent iOs15 beta, Apple’s Ad Targeting or Personalized Ads appears as a pop-up notification when you open the App Store. In the pop-up, Apple explains the ads will help you discover relevant apps, products, and services.
With privacy-first priority, Apple required other developers to seek users’ permission from the users with App Tracking Transparency (ATT). Apparently, Apple is now showing that they are also treating itself the same as other developers.
But, Why Make This Move Now?
The fact that it was on by default led to Antitrust scrutiny especially when it has limited third-party ad networks with controversial ATT policy but did not follow a similar system to ask permission for its first-party advertising.
As pointed out by Verge rightly, Apple’s language choice is also worth examining – developers are expected to ask a user for consent to be tracked whereas Apple refers to what it is doing as ‘personalization.’
Apple’s rule for other developers: you have to ask users if they want to be “tracked” for ad targeting
But Apple’s own ad tracking is “personalization,” which sounds much less nefarious https://t.co/hsAQuT8zYb
— Alex Heath (@alexeheath) September 2, 2021
This new change brings Apple’s ad policy in line with what third-party developers were required to as a part of the App Tracking Transparency. This can be viewed as a tiny concession on Apple’s part in response to the current antitrust scrutiny in France. According to the complaint against Apple, the users were “insufficiently informed about the use of processing of its personal data” within its own app for ad targeting.
With this small step of ad-tracking pop-up, Apple is conveying “that they are trying to play fair”.
What Is The Final Score?
For iOS14, no permission is required to run personalized ads.
For iOS 15, Apple plans to make a request.
Other developers will have to take the consent and adhere to the law and Apple platform rules with the only question left, will these multiple consent dialog boxes make the user experience distressing?
A remarkable shift by Facebook is underway as it plans a new privacy-focused revamp of its advertising system. It reveals to place more value on user privacy and less reliance on data collection. The social giant business is known for its ability to track users across the internet and utilize the information for its ad targeting processes. Owing to impending regulation and data collection limitations, it is working to create a system that delivers personalized ads without any individual user’s data. Facebook’s VP of product marketing, Graham Mudd explained,
With Apple and Google continuing to make changes via their browsers and operating systems, and with the changing privacy regulatory landscape, it’s important to acknowledge that digital advertising must evolve to become less reliant on individual third-party data. That’s why we’ve been investing in a multi-year effort to build a portfolio of privacy-enhancing technologies and collaborate with the industry on these and other standards that will support this next era.
The privacy-enhancing technology includes cryptography and statistical techniques that will improve ad measurement while relying less on individual data.
We are optimistic that new privacy-enhancing technologies will prove that personalization remains possible and effective as our industry evolves to become less reliant on individual third-party data. These technologies will help us minimize the amount of personal information we process, while still allowing us to show people relevant ads and measure ad effectiveness for advertisers.
Another key area that the social giant is exploring is ‘on-device learning ’. It is a technology that will process data locally on their device rather than sending individual data to a remote server or cloud to determine the best ads for the user. The results are later sent in an anonymous format to the advertisers. However, Graham Mudd explained the challenge in an interview with The Verge,
I think one of the challenges with on-device learning is that the compute resources required to do it are obviously under the control of the operating systems themselves.
The stakes couldn’t be higher for Facebook to get the systems right. Graham Mudd said that,
We definitely see that personalization will evolve very meaningfully over the course of the next five years. And that invest in Privacy-Focused will benefit all of our customers and enable us to help shape that future state of the ads ecosystem.
Facebook’s major changes come amidst government scrutiny and Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) update. Furthermore, even Google is exploring an advertising system that is more user-privacy-centric.
Apple’s new prompt to ask for permission to track the users for targeted ads is likely to hurt Facebook’s revenue growth. However, the true impact of prompt is still evolving and the report shows that not many iOS users are opting for app tracking. Therefore, this leads to a broad range of data tools that are required to attribute ad responses. Facebook is developing a new range of options on this front.
Providing more insight the social firm is working on privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs) for ads that will minimize data collection, protect personal information while preserving ad measurements.
So, it is working to explore various ways to implement these approaches to new measurement solutions,
Last year we began testing our Private Lift Measurement solution with select partners, which uses a privacy-enhancing technology called secure multi-party computation. This helps advertisers understand how their campaigns are performing while adding extra layers of privacy to limit the information that can be learned by the advertiser or Facebook. This solution will be broadly available to advertisers next year.
To give you a brief, Secure multi-party computation (MPC) allows two or more organizations to work together while limiting the information that either party can learn. Data is encrypted end-to-end: while in transit, in storage, and in use, ensuring neither party can see the other’s data.
The social giant emphasizes that for these technologies to be successful, they will need industry cooperation.
These technologies will only be successful for people and businesses of all sizes if there is industry collaboration and a shared set of standards. That’s why we are calling on platforms, publishers, developers, and other industry participants to work together — on these technologies and other privacy-focused standards and practices.