Apple Hits Pause on Much-anticipated Privacy Feature

Well, this is a bit of a surprise.

Apple’s IOS14 was poised to torpedo the digital ad machine with its anticipated privacy feature that would require developers to get user permission to gather data and track them online. Users were expecting this feature to be available mid-September.

iPhone and Mac users were psyched; the digital ad industry was less thrilled. Facebook called out the privacy feature last week as unfair to publishers, saying it would cause the publishers in its Audience Network program to lose money.

“Ultimately, despite our best efforts, Apple’s updates may render Audience Network so ineffective on iOS 14 that it may not make sense to offer it on iOS 14,” read a post from Facebook. (Interestingly, the change is not expected to impact Facebook itself much, as they rely on their own first-party data.)

In what looks like a concession to the ad industry, Apple now says the privacy feature will still roll out with the pending iOS14 update, and developers have at least until the end of the year to comply.

“Apple originally intended to put the feature live and start enforcing its requirements with iOS 14, slated for released sometime this fall, but the company is now giving developers more time to comply with the changes,” writes Nick Statt in The Verge. Among the companies most concerned about the feature is Facebook, which said it would stop using the unique identifiers Apple intends to warn users about but expressed concern for third-party advertisers on its network that cannot afford to do the same.”

Apple’s statement affirms its position on user privacy while addressing the fact that developers may need more time to comply.

“We believe technology should protect users’ fundamental right to privacy, and that means giving users tools to understand which apps and websites may be sharing their data with other companies for advertising or advertising measurement purposes, as well as the tools to revoke permission for this tracking,” Apple said in a statement to The Verge. “When enabled, a system prompt will give users the ability to allow or reject that tracking on an app-by-app basis. We want to give developers the time they need to make the necessary changes, and as a result, the requirement to use this tracking permission will go into effect early next year.”

Given the complexity of complying from a technical standpoint — coupled with some obvious and understandable reluctance by marketing departments to comply at all — the delay is bound to be welcome news for third-party app developers.

Meanwhile, iPhone users are poised with a finger over the button for this feature to activate. When it does, digital advertising will change dramatically as the effectiveness of third-party data drops.

If you aren’t already focusing on how to leverage your own brand’s first-party data, now is the time. Apple’s delay just bought you a bit more time.