iOS 14.5 and the IDFA judgement day: The future of attribution arrives next week

By John Koetsier April 20, 2021

We finally have a date for judgement day.

In today’s Apple Event, CEO Tim Cook unveiled new iPads, new iMacs, new iPhones, a new Apple TV, and new podcasting subscriptions. He didn’t say anything about iOS 14.5 and the App Tracking Transparency (ATT) prompt. Those technologies, of course, will govern whether or not mobile marketers will get access to the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) that has been at the very center of mobile user acquisition and retargeting for the past decade.

But he didn’t have to.

AirTags, which are tracking devices for objects, require iOS 14.5. And the fine print about their release says that will be available “starting next week.”

Apple AirTag release iOS 14.5 IDFA

Apple confirmed this with a developer update, released today, that specifically references ATT and what mobile developers need to do around privacy, including declaring any intention to track in an app’s product page in the App Store:

With the upcoming public release of iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5, and tvOS 14.5, all apps must use the AppTrackingTransparency framework to request the user’s permission to track them or to access their device’s advertising identifier. Unless you receive permission from the user to enable tracking, the device’s advertising identifier value will be all zeros and you may not track them.

When submitting your app for review, any other form of tracking — for example, by name or email address — must be declared in the product page’s ‌App Store‌ Privacy Information section and be performed only if permission is granted through AppTrackingTransparency. You’ll also need to include a purpose string in the system prompt to explain why you’d like to track the user, per ‌App Store‌ Review Guideline 5.1.2(i). These requirements apply to all apps starting April 26, 2021.

So it’s next week. I hope you’re ready.

The future of attribution on iOS is privacy-safe. The reality is that while it’s wonderful as a marketer to have all possible data to know what’s happening with ads, potential users, actual users, whales and big customers, and to be able to target with accuracy, retarget and remarket precisely, and find look-alike users with high fidelity, there’s a privacy cost to be paid. And the same technology that has enabled incredible feats of digital marketing has major potential downsides which have been and can be used with severely negative consequences for public welfare and individual privacy.

Oh, and it’s not just iOS.

Android’s coming, too. Google’s working on Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), and while the reaction from the privacy and marketing and publishing communities hasn’t been great so far, something will happen on Android that will make mobile attribution and marketing measurement on Google’s mobile platform privacy safe, or at least privacy safer. Google’s tipped their intentions by unveiling FLoC, and the entire regulatory and public sentiment trend is towards increased privacy and decreased data collection.

As you know if you’ve been following the Singular blog, we’ve been busy with privacy-safe attribution.

We started talking to marketers about it two years ago. Singular was the first to announce support for SKAdNetwork last year when Apple officially launched it. Singular was the first to offer a comprehensive SKAdNetwork solution, the first to offer fraud-preventing 307 redirects for SKAdNetwork postbacks, and has the most comprehensive conversion modeling, allowing marketers to test different conversion models in SKAN without writing a line of code.

Singular is also committed to ensuring that your need to measure your marketing doesn’t put your app’s existence on the App Store at risk.

My personal guess is that the next few weeks will be bumpy for a lot of vendors and many mobile marketers. Everyone’s going to see if all the work they put was enough. Metrics will be impacted; data available will change; pipelines will be impacted; growth teams will need a period of growing themselves as they deal with new ways of getting, optimizing, and using data to influence investment decisions.

Pre-season is over. It’s almost game time.

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