- Apple’s privacy update last year threw the mobile advertising industry into chaos.
- Industry insiders think Apple has more plans to crack down on tracking.
- Insider spoke to 10 experts who predicted 3 privacy and announcement updates Apple might announce next.
This article was first published on February 17, 2022. It was updated on April 26, 2022.
April 26 marks the one-year anniversary of Apple’s rollout of its App Tracking Transparency update, a privacy crackdown that threw the mobile advertising industry into chaos.
While many companies have largely adapted to the change – which requires app developers to ask users for permission before tracking them on other apps and websites – experts expect further disruption this year.
Advertisers, app developers and the technology providers that connect them will be watching Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June for even more privacy announcements.
“They’re still pointing to a North Star to stop pervasive cross-app tracking,” said an ad tech veteran who requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the press on behalf of his organization. “You can set your watch on it: they’ll make an announcement, I’m sure, at WWDC.”
Insider spoke to 10 mobile advertising industry experts who speculated on what might come to fruition at Apple’s summer event. Their predictions ranged from Apple further tightening the screws on privacy to the company making further strides to bolster its own advertising business.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
1. Apple could expand its “Private Relay” feature
A bugbear held by some in the mobile advertising community is that Apple hasn’t punished companies that bend its rules — in public, anyway.
Apple’s Developer Program License Agreement explicitly prohibits the practice of “fingerprinting” if users have opted out, for example. Even without access to the IDFA, advertisers and ad technology providers can aggregate other information from a device, such as a user’s ID.
, device language setting, or operating system — to probabilistically match users who clicked on an ad to download an app. Providers can also potentially use this fingerprint information to create unique profiles about users, without their permission.
Rather than removing apps from the App Store if they’re involved in fingerprinting, “it appears they’re looking to leverage technology as an enforcement mechanism,” suggested Charles Manning, CEO of mobile analytics company Kochava.
At last year’s WWDC, Apple introduced Private Relay for its paid iCloud+ subscribers. Private Relay effectively acts as a virtual private network, hiding a user’s IP address and Safari activity while browsing the web. The IP address is widely considered to be the most useful signal for device fingerprinting.
Eric Seufert, a strategy consultant at Heracles Media and owner of the Mobile Dev Memo blog, predicted that Apple would find a way to extend Private Relay to cross-reference all outbound iPhone traffic to crack down on fingerprinting.
“It’s the only logical next step if they want to pursue this — if it wasn’t just a PR campaign,” Seufert said.
Some observers have noted that it could be costly for Apple to relay so much traffic, but Seufert said Apple could create alternatives such as additionally routing adtech-related traffic through an “SDK runtime” environment. ” dedicated.
Amplifying Private Relay is an option that would not only confuse advertisers, but also potentially telecommunications companies. Some carriers, including T-Mobile and Sprint in the US, have even blocked Private Relay’s IP address feature for certain customers. Elsewhere, mobile network operators in Europe have implored the European Commission to force Apple to block Private Relay altogether. Telecom operators are concerned that cutting off access to data will prevent them from operating their networks effectively.
2. Apple might launch its own version of Privacy Sandbox
As Google’s Privacy Sandbox attempts to bring its tests of privacy-focused ad tools to the open, some experts have speculated that Apple might be doing something similar privately.
Apple already offers a fairly basic ad measurement solution called SKAdNetwork, but many industry insiders are hoping for improvements, such as support for web-to-app conversions.
“Right now it’s just too limited for most app marketers to work effectively, which has caused a lot of the general angst in the ecosystem,” said Alex Bauer , head of product marketing and market strategy at mobile analytics company Branch.
Madan Bharadwaj, CTO of analytics firm Measured, wondered if Apple might have bigger plans for ad measurement, in the same way that Google has proposed grouping consumers into “cohorts,” based on topics of interest, rather than being able to identify and target individual users.
Apple could be planning something more ambitious – maybe even another chance to launch a broader advertising business. A recent job description, for example, said the company was “setting new standards to enable effective advertising while protecting user privacy.”
“They could do something quite elegant that improves the way the industry works, is privacy-focused, respects people’s time, that they could argue is better than average and, net-net, benefits everyone in the ecosystem,” said Simon Andrews, founder of mobile agency Addictive.
3. Apple is further bolstering its own search ads business
A clear beneficiary of Apple’s privacy update has been Apple’s own advertising business.
Market analyst firm Omidia estimated that Apple’s advertising revenue reached $3.5 billion in 2021, up 264% from 2020, as advertisers shifted their in-app ad spend to its Search ads on App Store after privacy rollout. Similarly, Measured said its customers spent 250% more on Apple Search Ads in 2021 compared to 2020.
Apple’s search ad formats and targeting options are basic, but some ad experts predicted it would add more bells and whistles as app developers continue to search for effective ways to find new users and monetize their applications.
Apple’s recent decisions to add more ad placements in its own apps and allow developers to display up to 35 versions of their storefronts in the App Store suggest there could be other similar launches. to come, said Itai Cohen, who leads marketing and corporate strategy. to mobile software company Digital Turbine.
“Custom product pages are good for the whole ecosystem – you can also use this link and connect to programs that run programmatically,” Cohen said. “This is another data point that shows Apple cares more about advertising.”
Still, if Apple’s advertising business continues to boom significantly at the expense of its rivals, antitrust regulators could start paying even closer attention to the company, experts said.