Apple’s New Tracking Policy-Interesting Data

Over a year ago Apple announced that they were going to make a major change in how Apple (Mac and iPhone) users interact with ads NOT served up by Apple.

Web sites and apps were going to have to ASK a user’s permission to track data across web sites or for sharing with data brokers.

The thing that scared web site owners was that this was not a situation where you can collect whatever data you want and if the user can figure out how to opt out, then you have to let him or her opt out.

No, in this case, it was going to be an opt-in scenario. And, you couldn’t hide it. When the user first visits the site or uses the app, you have to prominently display Apple’s constructed “do you want to share your data” screen.

Facebook even tried to soften the blow by popping up a screen that they controlled, first, saying that the world was going to end (like you would be restricted on what you could do or you might even have to pay to use Facebook) if you didn’t opt in.

We now have some data on what happened since this new rule went into effect in April.

Ad tech firm Lotame said that Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube, combined, lost $9.85 billion in third and fourth quarters (not sure how they figure this since I think we are in the middle of the fourth quarter). This represents 12 percent of their revenue.

Facebook lost the most dollars, since they are the biggest. Snapchat lost the biggest percentage, since they are all mobile.

Verizon’s analytics firm Flurry said, back in May (just a month after this all went into effect) that only 4 percent of iPhone users in the US opted in. Worldwide the percentage was a whopping 12 percent.

Of course ad companies are not going to sit there and cry in their beer (well, they may do that too), but coming up with a new strategy is going to be hard, expensive and take time. And, it might not work.

Facebook said the new rules were more disruptive than they anticipated. I guess they figured either (a) users were stupid or (b) they could be guilted or threatened into allowing Facebook to track them.

When Apple first announced this rule, Facebook said that this would be devastating to small businesses that rely on Facebook ads. I think there is some truth to this. Some small businesses depend on targeted ads to Apple users on Facebook, but if that is your whole marketing strategy, I think you need to do some more thinking.

Facebook cried that this was about Apple’s profit and not privacy, but I think that is a bit disingenuous as well.

Apple says that users should have a choice and it certainly looks like they are choosing.

Apple’s own ad business, which doesn’t share data with third parties, doesn’t have to follow these rules and, not surprisingly, their ad revenue is up. Apple ads have a separate settings panel and that one defaults to on.

We do understand that Apple is not a non-profit, but the message seems clear. Given an easy choice, users do not want to be tracked. Credit: Computing

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