While this man was troubled,iPhoneA prompt appears on the screen, offering the option to “Ask App Not to Track”. After he clicked this button, all the uninvited guests turned to ashes and disappeared before his eyes.
While the ad resonated easily with users, it wasn’t accurate. The feature, called App Tracking Transparency (ATT), won’t completely block companies from tracking users across the Internet and mobile apps, because Apple can’t, and doesn’t want to. User data will still be collected, but the kind and method of collection will change. However, the end result is pretty much the same: you’ll still be targeted by ads.
It’s not because ATT doesn’t work. What it really does is not only limited, but also difficult to understand by most iPhone users, because the whole process is done by inserting a few lines of code into the opaque world of ad tech. For many, the only noticeable change is that when opening the app, it sometimes says “Do not track app tracking”.
But beneath this surface, many changes have taken place. Data is the basis for the survival of the mobile advertising industry, and AT&T has suddenly cut off one of its data streams, upending the entire industry. In the past year, companies that have developed on this basis have been struggling to explore various alternatives and re-plan their strategies. In contrast, businesses that do not rely on this data are stronger than ever.
Launching ATT seems like a good thing from a user privacy perspective. It’s just, not as good as Apple’s portrayal.
ATT was launched to address privacy concerns. But the reason why this problem is a problem, Apple “is to blame.” Before the birth of the iPhone, the Internet was flooded with various user information tracking mechanisms, but the iPhone and its third-party applications have caused a blowout growth of user data. people carry it anywherecell phone, almost everything can be handled with a mobile phone, and it will always be online. While this technology brings convenience to people, it also makes it easier for mobile applications to collect and monetize user data.
Today, the scale of the mobile advertising industry is very large. First, user information is collected through mobile devices, then user portraits are drawn based on this information, and then accurate advertisements are placed according to the portraits, and finally the advertising effect is measured. Much of the tracking activity occurs without the user’s awareness.
For example, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has placed trackers in millions of third-party apps and websites that match a device’s behavior in one app with its behavior in other apps that Meta tracks. behaviors, even with the Facebook or Instagram account of the device owner. This allows businesses to target that user with targeted ads on apps and websites with embedded Meta trackers.
But few want to be watched. Apple also doesn’t want other companies to use Apple devices to spy on Apple users, and it doesn’t want to use its own data to pave the way for third-party businesses to become bigger and stronger. Given Apple’s ongoing efforts to plasticize its privacy-conscious corporate image, this situation is clearly detrimental to Apple. What’s more, Meta, also a tech giant, is one of the major beneficiaries of data collection. ATT can block one of many tracking methods without doing any harm to Apple.
ATT gives the user control of the device’s unique serial number, also known as the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA). When using different apps, trackers can use IDFA to identify devices, thereby associating user activities in different apps with specific devices. Starting with the iOS 14.5 update in April 2021, Apple devices will no longer send IDFAs unless the user agrees to be tracked. For now, the feature appears to be working exactly as Apple promised.
“User data belongs to the user and should be left to the user to decide whether and with whom to share (data),” an Apple spokesperson said.iPadIn the OS operating system, Apple allows users to decide whether to allow apps to track them through other companies’ apps or websites. “
Violation of the way to bypass ATT
ATT has two major limitations. The user chooses not to track, which means that the IDFA is prohibited from being sent to the outside world. But enterprises can still track it across applications through other means. Apple only restricts the IDFA road, and does not restrict other methods, and Apple’s own advertising business will also use other methods.
For example, “fingerprint recognition”. This requires collecting as much seemingly innocuous device information as possible, including device name, model, user settings, IP address, and carrier. Combining these details may be enough to differentiate between devices, effectively replacing IDFA. While Apple App Store policy prohibits this behavior, it cannot technically prevent it. Users can only rely on Apple’s policy enforcement, but there are reports that Apple’s enforcement is not strict.
“It’s a bit like a cat-and-mouse game.” Some apps can still collect device information and use it as a basis for distinguishing users, some researchers said. “Apple can at best control the tracking that occurs on users’ devices, but not data companies. internal behavior.
History has proved that no matter how blocked, professional user data collection companies can always find a way to break through and continue to collect user data.
“While browsers try to add more privacy protections, such as blocking third-party tracking cookies, those who want to track users will design new tracking mechanisms to avoid continuing to rely on technologies that have been obsolete or blocked,” said the UC Berkeley researchers. .It’s like an arms race.”
The lesson for users is: Don’t think you can get rid of data tracking just because Apple introduced blocking.
Ways to bypass ATT in compliance
Apple said it did not know how many users refused to be tracked. Calculations vary widely from agency to agency, but most agencies agree that the vast majority of users (hundreds of millions) refuse to be tracked. So, while trackers can still get device-level data from Apple users who haven’t rejected it, as well as Android users (at least until Google rolls out its own no-tracking feature), they still face huge losses.
A senior practitioner said, “This has disrupted the mobile marketing field. Marketers must now break the reliance on user data.”
Some companies even turned to email marketing in a panic, and it was traditional paper mail. Because Apple is also cracking down on email-based tracking. Some companies believe that Meta has cut Meta’s advertising budget because the advertising effect of its platform is getting worse.
Zachary Ehrilich, director of paid advertising at Doctors Internet, said customers are being encouraged to use Google search ads. For customers who stick with Facebook, he embeds tracking phone numbers in ads to see if those ads are paying off, because Meta’s feedback isn’t as precise as it used to be. Jon Shanahan, co-founder and chief marketing officer of men’s skincare brand Stryx, said the advertising budget was originally allocated to Meta and TikTok. But starting last August, he allocated all of his budget to TikTok.
“You used to spend a dollar on Facebook and you could get five or six dollars back,” Shanahan said. “Now? A one-to-one rate of return would be nice.”
Meta insists that AT&T would be disruptive to its business. But it mainly claims that the move will harm small businesses that buy ads through Meta, and the reality is… well known. And it turned out that, while the Meta ad business was still growing and still generating huge profits, it was slowing down. That’s a very red flag for the Meta, an advertising-heavy ship.
“Despite Apple’s unfavorable policies, we continue to tune our systems so businesses succeed while respecting privacy and sharing steps they can take to optimize ad performance and measurement on our platform,” Meta said.
Fortunately, there are other ways to track users while adhering to Apple’s policies. Apple does not allow companies to continue to track and locate users across apps at the device-specific level, but it can still track and locate users as a whole. In other words, although companies cannot continue to target a specific user, they can still target a group of users anonymously. (Google has tried a similar approach with FLoC, hoping to replace web-based trackers, but without success.)
“Contextual” ads can also be delivered, a model that, while not new, is gaining traction in the relative lack of user-level data. It’s not just because of AT&T that this happened, the introduction of privacy laws and the demise of website cookies also played a role. Contextual ads serve ads based on what the user is viewing. For example, if you are using a fitness tracker app, you may see an ad for fitness equipment.
‘Walled Gardens’ Get Stronger
Some tracking has been promoted as never before. Apple does not prohibit companies from tracking users on its platform (known as “first-party data”), nor does it prohibit companies from using this data to target ads on its platform. Even Apple itself is doing it. Many businesses that don’t yet have their own first-party data sources are now building databases, or merging with other companies to obtain such data. Because of this, more and more businesses are strongly recommending or even forcing users to create an account before using their services.
“A retail company can advertise directly on Amazon. They have enough data because everyone is logged in… It’s not really affected by (ATT’s),” the analyst said. These walled gardens just get more powerful.”
As a user, if you know who is collecting your data, what data is being collected, and for what purpose, you may not care much about first-party tracking behavior. If you know who the other party is and what the deal you have with the other party is, you may even be willing to exchange your data for free services, but you don’t want your app data to be sent to the backend without your knowledge. company.
But this pattern also has some unintended consequences. The companies that have benefited the most from the rise of first-party data and the decline of third-party data are the companies with the most first-party data, often the world’s top companies, such as Google and Amazon.
There are also concerns that as the value of first-party data grows, the already powerful walled gardens will gain more power. Big brands and big businesses have the resources to adapt to change, but small businesses don’t. Diana Lee, chief executive of ad tech company Constellation, believes that means they will rely more than ever on walled gardens and be left behind by the more dominant giants.
“Overall, this creates more monopolies, which could be tech giants or big brands,” she said.
Existing monopoly positions are also likely to be strengthened. Apple itself is under antitrust pressure, and several countries will introduce laws targeting the App Store (although Apple denies violating competition principles).