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Apple’s iOS Updates & Privacy: All You Need to Know

Apple’s iOS privacy update dealt with, among other things, App Tracking Transparency. What does this mean for advertisers and businesses?

As we enter the age of big data, we see how businesses are leveraging critical user information to deliver the most relevant and personalised message at the right time. The old adage that knowledge is power is certainly true today, especially so for social giants such as Facebook. 

Another thread that runs parallel to the collection and use of customer behaviour is the prickly topic of data privacy. While we, as users, appreciate having relevant offers appear magically in our inbox or newsfeed, there is always the niggling concern that we’re being watched a little too closely.

Since the 14.5 iOS update, Apple has maintained a strong focus on privacy, which upset some of the other tech giants who rely heavily on user data as their business model. 

What do we need to know about the latest iOS updates, and how will it affect our marketing efforts?

What is the iOS Privacy Update?

The iOS 14.5 privacy update dealt with, among other things, App Tracking Transparency. On its own, this is a fairly innocuous change. After all, we are fully aware of the need to carefully manage customer data and offer the necessary opt-ins and opt-outs along the way. 

However, the way this update was presented is what’s caused an issue with the likes of Facebook. 

Once a user updates their device to the latest iOS, each company that wants to track their data through an app has to ask permission via a standardised prompt that reads, 

Allow “App Name” to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites? 

Please allow permission to provide service and personalized marketing. It will be used only for the purpose of providing personalized advertising based on Apple’s policy.



Apple says, “App Tracking Transparency lets you control which apps are allowed to track your activity across other companies' apps and websites for ads or sharing with data brokers.”

If users are happy to be tracked then they allow the app to do so and there is no issue. If they deny access then they essentially become invisible to other companies.

How Did it Work Before?

Tracking ads to see what works best has been an evolving science for years now, and we’re getting better at it all the time. A collection of user data from sources such as Facebook, Google Analytics, and mobile network information combine to offer astute businesses and marketing agencies a unique insight into the mind of their customer. 

Prior to this privacy update, turning off data sharing on your Apple device meant digging into settings and changing your privacy settings. iOS 14.5 and later updates require users to make this data-sharing decision as soon as they download an app.

This has effectively blindfolded advertisers to the activity of Apple users who choose to opt out of App Tracking.

What is the Problem With the Latest iOS Update?

There are mixed feelings about Apple’s privacy update: some are pleased as punch at the obvious manner in which data tracking has been framed. Others, not so much. Facebook, for one, are not overly excited about this change.

In their opinion, forcing a decision from a user upfront in such a black and white way is not ideal. There is not enough information on the prompt to tell them how or where to enable tracking if they change their mind. There is no opportunity to opt-in later. It’s very much a now or never situation and that’s what’s causing the issue. 

Facebook has said that their objection to this policy lies in the fact that it will inevitably make it more difficult and more expensive for data brokers, businesses, and agencies to target their audience. 

Right now they (Facebook) can offer an efficient targeting system that allows their ads to work well, and offer a good return on spend. More businesses today are relying on local revenue sources which require accurate targeting. Their argument continues to include small businesses and those that have recently turned to digital advertising to survive the difficult economic times, stating that these will be hard hit by this update. 

Gathering the Facts

Apparently, based on their information, Facebook expects around 80% of iOS users to opt-out of app tracking. That means that they can wave goodbye to a huge chunk of data from Apple users.

Marketers, likewise, are concerned about this fact for several reasons:

  • Facebook ads are a highly effective foundational marketing tool. If iOS users were to opt-out of Facebook app tracking, then that closes the door to valuable data for a large percentage of the market.
  • Most people, not just iOS users, will deny access to data tracking when prompted to choose. While they’ve always had the choice, Apple forces their hand as soon as the app launches.
  • Businesses that rely on Facebook ads will find that their targeting ability will be negatively impacted and their efficacy reduced. 
  • Facebook pixels are an incredibly important tool that gathers user data across websites or apps. Customer actions can be monitored and campaigns can be amended based on this data.
  • Since the iOS 14.5 update, the number of pixels allowed on a domain has reduced down to just eight-pixel objectives. 
  • Reporting from your app or Facebook ads will be inaccurate, as the data will exclude a portion of user activity. 

There’s no doubt that the latest iOS privacy update has shaken up the market reducing advertising efficiency, increasing ad spend, and skewing data. 

Finding a Solution

What can we do if we think that our marketing has been affected by this privacy update? 

There are several avenues available that can help forward-thinking businesses pivot quickly and not get sucked into the black hole that Apple is creating. 

  • Track what you can. The iOS update only affects Apple users, so if this data is going to be flawed or inaccessible then focus your efforts on Android devices only.
  • Focus your efforts on different definitions of your target customer. Search your data for more information on who buys from you, and work to redefine your audience based on new events, bids, or search terms. 
  • Use as many channels as feasible to nurture the customers you have access to, not forgetting email marketing. These email addresses are invaluable and can be imported into Facebook for targeted audience remarketing. 
  • Expand your reach to include conversational mobile messaging on platforms such as WhatsApp.
  • SMS marketing is still a highly effective marketing tool that is great for campaigns and personalised messages. 
  • Make smart use of omnichannel conversations via chatbots, messenger, website contact forms, live chat and other user-friendly channels to level up your customer service. 

In Summary

The iOS privacy update almost certainly impacted businesses, from the big guns like Facebook right down to start-ups who have just entered the digital arena. 

We may not like it, and we may not agree that this is the best way forward. But if we can’t change Apple’s policies then we may as well roll with it and make sure to limit the effect on our bottom line. 

In this instance, diversification of your marketing channels is likely the best course of action and one which may well offer advantages that you didn’t expect. 

For more information on getting on board with smart conversational systems and pivot successfully, get in touch with one of our team members and we’ll be happy to talk you through some exciting communication and customer data options.

Lisa Lottering
is the Snr. Digital Marketing Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa at She is passionate about digital marketing and customer experience. She is dedicated and committed to enhancing the brand locally using strategic marketing campaigns via various channels.
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