Mobile App Terminology

App Tracking Transparency (ATT)

What is App Tracking Transparency (ATT)?


App tracking transparency (ATT) is a change to Apple’s privacy and data collection policy that requires mobile marketers to ask consent from users in order to track them. Specifically, marketers will be required to ask user’s permission to track them across apps and websites owned by companies other than Apple.

This new privacy policy will be enforced with the beta release of iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5, and tvOS 14.5, which will likely be released in March 2021. The AppTrackingTransparency framework will show the user a popup asking for their permission to access their device’s unique identifier for tracking purposes. As Apple highlights in their privacy policy and data use article:

Tracking refers to the act of linking user or device data collected from your app with user or device data collected from other companies’ apps, websites, or offline properties for targeted advertising or advertising measurement purposes. Tracking also refers to sharing user or device data with data brokers.

This new opt-in method of tracking is contrasted to their previous method in which users had to opt-out of sharing their Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA). An IDFA is a unique identifier that allows companies to recognize a user’s device and track their activity across apps and websites. The goal of tracking an IDFA is to measure and analyze the performance of marketing campaigns.

What are the uses of App Tracking Transparency (ATT)?

With this major change to Apple’s privacy policy, mobile marketers and advertisers need to plan how they will adapt to this new tracking framework. Apple’s aforementioned privacy page highlights several examples of tracking that will be impacted by this change, including:

  • Targeted display ads within an app based on data collected by third-party websites or apps
  • Collecting and sharing a devices location or email with a data broker
  • Collecting and sharing advertising IDs or other unique identifiers with third-party advertising networks for the purpose of retargeting
  • Using third-party SDKs within an app that combines users data with data from other apps in order to measure advertising performance

Apple also specifies certain use cases that don’t fall under the definition of tracking and thus do not require user consent with the AppTrackingTransparency framework:

  • When a user’s device data from an app is linked to third-party data but is kept on the device, and not sent off the device for the purpose of identifying either the user or device
  • Sharing user data with a data broker for the sole purpose of mobile fraud prevention, detection, or security is allowed

It’s important to note that in the consent popup that requests permission with the AppTrackingTracking framework, you must include the reason that you’d like to track the user. This purpose string in the prompt is meant to explain to the user exactly how their data will be used to help them better understand what they’re opting in to.

Another change with the AppTrackingFramework is that users can turn on or off IDFA sharing on an app-by-app basis. Previously, users only had a single option to toggle their IDFA sharing preferences for all apps. Apple provides the following suggestion for users that have turned off tracking for your app:

If the user allows apps to request to track, but has turned tracking off for your app, you can ask the user to change their preference for your app by providing a shortcut to Settings where they can change the tracking permission.

How Singular is adapting to App Tracking Transparency?

After the release of iOS 14.5, mobile marketers will need to determine whether they want to show the ATT prompt in order to access IDFA data.

While Singular can’t provide definitive recommendations for clients and their apps, we do have a Help Center article that discusses how to prepare for these changes. Specifically, it’s recommended to ask several questions to each key team and stakeholder to reach a decision. Below are several examples of questions to ask each team.

Development team:

  • Is having access to IDFA data important for our business model?
  • Will not having the IDFA impact the apps user experience?

Marketing team:

  • Do our mobile measurement partner (MMP) or other technology partners depend on the IDFA?
  • Can we achieve our marketing goals without this data?

Data team:

  • Do our internal or external analytics tools depend on the IDFA?
  • Is there a way to rework our analytics process to lessen our dependence on the IDFA?

After answering these questions, if you’ve decided to request consent for the IDFA, you will then need to work with your development team to implement the AppTrackingTransparency framework. You can find more information on how to implement this in Apple’s documentation here.

After implementing ATT with Apple, you will also need to ensure the app is communicating the IDFA consent data to Singular’s SDK or any other technology that’s affected by it. You can find more information about how to integrate ATT with Singular’s SDK in our Help Center. Finally, it’s important to note that Singular is able to support apps regardless of your consent management decision.

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