iOS 14

I’ve been looking at privacy and iPhones. Apple is known for being more user-centric than, say Google or Facebook, at least with regard to privacy, as it operates off a completely different financial model. Where Google and Facebook are selling ads based on their massive data-gathering operations, Apple is selling hardware. They’re shipping atoms, not bits, as the saying goes.

But in a new move, it looks like Apple is about to upset the entire targeted ad market, and some commentators are claiming that Apple is killing a Billion Dollar ad industry with a single new feature. 

iOS14 — that’s the next operating system for iPhones — is currently in beta, and was explored in detail at the recent WWDC – the Worldwide Developers Conference. The stories that got the most attention at the conference were both the Big Sur operating system, and Apple moving to their own silicon chips. But the news that will likely have the greatest impact is simple, and contained in a single pop-up.

iOS14 will ask users if they want to opt-in to having their data tracked so they can be served personal ads. And Opt-in is the big thing here.

The way this works is that every phone has an Advertising Identifier, called IDFA, and it lets developers and marketers track your activity. Marketing agencies – backed by Google and Facebook technology – track purchases, usage times, and user actions, and then serve ads in apps and browsers.

On the data gathering side — more than 100k apps in the iOS App Store integrate the tracking technology, and send user data to Google, Facebook and data brokers.

And iOS14 is going to destroy that.

When users install new apps to the operating system, when they first open them, they’ll be asked whether to “Allow Tracking” or “Ask App Not To Track”.

No one with any sense will choose to allow tracking.

The point is … this is now opt-in rather than opt-out, as stands in iOS13, the current operating system. It’s a great feature for users, who are typically tracked without their own knowledge. But it will challenge not only a multi-billion dollar ad industry, but also Google and Facebook’s global duopoly over targeted advertising online.