The next iOS 14 update will take aim at ad tracking in apps

Apple will soon start showing iPhone users how apps are tracking them

Credit: Michael Simon/IDG

iOS 14 brought some major visual changes to our home screens, but the biggest moves have been with the things we don’t see. Following the launch of mandatory privacy disclosures in the App Store in December, Apple is now setting its sights on ad tracking.

Coming in an upcoming iOS 14 update, which will presumably be iOS 14.5, Apple has confirmed that it will begin forcing developers to ask permission before they can use their unique Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) for third-party ad tracking. In a nutshell, that means users will need to opt-in to ad tracking rather than specifically opting out in the Settings.

In a statement supplied to TechCrunch and other media outlets, Apple said the new system is designed for transparency and simplicity: “Under Settings, users will be able to see which apps have requested permission to track, and make changes as they see fit. This requirement will roll out broadly in early spring with an upcoming release of iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and tvOS 14, and has already garnered support from privacy advocates around the world.”

Aside from getting a clearer picture of which apps are tracking you and sharing information with other agencies, it’ll also explicitly ask you whether to allow tracking on an app-by-app basis. When an app is launched for the first time, a prompt will appear to allow you to opt into tracking, much like location services.

Apple says developers will still be able to use data for their own advertising even if users opt-out.

The move is already garnering attention from the industry. In December, Facebook took out a full-page ad in the New York Times and other major newspapers “standing up to Apple” on behalf of small businesses. Facebook says the change wouldn’t be a blow to its bottom line but rather disproportionately impact small businesses, which stand to lose 60 percent in their sales for every dollar they spend.

In its earnings report on Wednesday, however, Facebook cautioned against “more significant ad-targeting headwinds in 2021,” specifically blaming iOS 14’s platform changes.

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Michael Simon

Michael Simon
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