On April 26, iPhone and iPad users received a notification informing them that a new software update was available. While many people either updated their device right away without thinking much of it, or dismissed the notification altogether, there is something especially unique that the Apple iOS 14.5 update offers. At the very end of the iOS 14.5 update description, you’ll see that the privacy tool, called App Tracking Transparency, now gives the option for users to control which apps can track their activity on outside platforms such as other websites or phone applications. This new privacy feature allows users to simply opt out of apps monitoring their activity and distributing that gathered data to third parties.*
It’s no secret that Facebook and Google gather this data to target ads. With this new option available, it allows users to have more control over their own devices. This also ensures a better sense of privacy knowing that their own activity won’t leave breadcrumbs for other companies to follow. While this update is great for the everyday iPhone and iPad user, the new privacy tool will cause roadblocks for those who rely on this data in order to generate traction, such as tech companies and developers.
Apps for iOS have used an IDAF since 2012. This is an Identifier for Advertising purposes. Essentially, it’s what assists in tracking users across different websites and other apps. This user data is what is gathered and either sold or given to other applications for ads purposes.
So, why is the iOS 14.5 update so important to users? The selling of user data to 3rd parties is and has been, for quite some time, a hot button issue. With companies vying to target their audiences with ads and users wishing to be more private, how is Apple tackling the data problem without stepping on toes? With the newest update, users are prompted as soon as the app is clicked to approve or disapprove the tracking. This allows users to be in charge of their own data and make the decision that, ultimately, companies like Facebook and Google will have to live with.
Platforms like Facebook, Google, Twitter, Bing, etc. are not solely in the business of social media and digital marketing. They are in the business of data collection and making a lot of money selling that data. The first thing to keep in mind is that all of these platforms already have your data. After updating to the new platform, Apple iOS users will not have any new data collected on them if they are able to opt out. Another thing to keep in mind is that this is a brand new feature on Apple’s operating system. There are plenty of kinks that have to be worked out and with future updates, the os will get better and better. However, as of right now, many are complaining about “a lack of ‘Ask to Track’ prompts”* since the upgrade. While some users have a lack of asking on some apps, other users haven’t seen any prompts at all. This disastrous release can turn users off from using the prompt to begin with. Even assuming that the os gets updated properly and begins to work as intended, this is not an end to all tracking. Apple will now have to continuously monitor workarounds that are and will be created to skirt the App Tracking Transparency Tool. The fight for privacy is an ongoing battle. While we at Emerald Digital do not know who will win this new battle, we do believe that the only winners so far are the data collectors.
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