Clash of the Tech Titans: Apple and Facebook in Battle Over User Privacy

Clash of the Tech Titans: Apple and Facebook in Battle Over User Privacy

You’ve probably heard – Mommy and Daddy are fighting. Tech giants Apple and Facebook are engaged in an ongoing dispute about user data and transparency and it looks like Apple is going to come out on top. This is huge for Facebook advertising and the brands that rely on it.  While the date of this impending change is still TBD, it’s crucial that marketers and brands 1. Understand the implications of Apple’s impending update and 2. Prepare for it.

What’s Happening?

Apple assigns each user device a bit of code known as IDFA (ID For Advertisers). This is a unique identifier shared by companies to track user movements across apps and websites. Currently,  iOS device users are automatically opted in to IDFA sharing and need to go to Settings > Privacy > Tracking on their device to opt out of sharing with any app.

With the release of iOS 14.5, Apple will require apps to display a prompt asking users if they wish to opt-in to IDFA sharing and will only allow sharing across apps that have explicit user permission. This gives end users a new level of control over the privacy of their data online. It also has serious implications for precision ad targeting and conversion tracking.

 It’s possible that users will choose to opt-in out of a desire to view advertising tailored to their interests or because they wish to keep ad-supported apps free of charge. But it’s much more likely (Facebook estimates that no more than 20% of iOS users will opt-in to IDFA sharing once given the choice) that users will choose to protect their privacy and deny apps permission to share their IDFA.

What Are the Implications?

Facebook has the ability to build precise user profiles from a combination of: 

  1. Information a user shares and actions they take on Facebook 
  2. Input from third party data providers, and 
  3. Actions a user takes on websites and apps outside of Facebook. 

If a user opts out of IDFA sharing, Facebook loses the ability to gather data from source 3. Instead of relying on actual user data to inform advertising profiles, Facebook will be forced to switch to statistical modeling of likely off-site behavior. This means a less robust user profile and loss of precision for ad targeting. It also impacts Facebook’s ability to track view-through conversions (when someone views an ad served by Facebook, does not click, but ultimately converts) and click-through conversions beyond a 7 day attribution window.

When Will it Happen?

Apple announced plans to roll-out its new App Tracking Transparency Prompt as part of the iOS 14.5 update sometime next week. It’s important that Facebook advertisers update their ad account settings before this rollout occurs. 

How Should We Prepare?

In preparation for this impending update, brands should set management and shareholder expectations by making clear that there will be a loss in advertising precision and budgets may need to be adjusted upward or reapportioned to other initiatives to make up for this loss. While the full impact for brands won’t become apparent until after the iOS 14.5 update, it is almost certain that there will be an impact on the bottom line. Key stakeholders need to be in the loop as early as possible to avoid difficult conversations in Q2 this year. From a technical, in-the-weeds perspective, Facebook has prepared documentation detailing the steps advertisers need to take immediately to prepare their accounts for changes in conversion tracking and attribution.

Need help, guidance, advice or just want to vent about what this change means for your brand? Shoot an email to audrey at largemedia dot com or submit a request through our contact form and we’ll be in touch right away.