Ad-dependent companies are already frustrated with the transparency of app tracking, but Apple’s privacy plans could go even further and strengthen the fight against advertisers who try to track users.
Apple has always taken a privacy-focused approach when it comes to tracking ads. The company’s first step was to develop an identifier for advertisers (IDFA), an anonymous way to track individual devices. Thus, advertisers could see that a particular device responded to a certain advertisement and subsequently visited the advertiser’s website, but they were unable to determine the identity of the device owner.
The next step was to “smart” tracking prevention in order to block cross-site tracking in Safari. In 2020, Apple announced the transparency of app tracking. This meant that each application had to explicitly ask the user for tracking permission.
But Apple’s privacy plans could go even further. According to Sarah Krouse from The Information, in the future, the Private Relay and Hide My Email functions may be enabled by default and available to all users. These privacy features mask the identity of users of Apple devices. Together, they threaten to further limit the online advertising industry’s ability to track customers, according to ad campaign managers and advertising consultants.
The two privacy features that Apple launched last fall are currently only available to those who pay for the iCloud+ data storage service. However, some advertising industry executives fear that Apple may expand or promote features to more of its customers, similar to previous privacy features.
If the Private Relay service expands beyond Safari to stop the transmission of users’ IP addresses through mobile apps, it will negate the efforts that many advertising networks and advertising technology companies have made to adapt to Apple’s earlier changes, known as app tracking transparency.