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Google is trying to work around Apple’s new privacy permission prompt

Google and its ad industry partners are not liking Apple’s upcoming tracking prompt in iOS 14. The company’s been dragging its feet with adding data privacy disclosures to its iPhone and iPad apps on the App Store. And now, Google says it will stop using a device’s unique IDFA (Identifier For Advertisers) to avoid showing the new privacy permission prompt in iOS 14.

In a blog post titled “Preparing our partners for Apple’s iOS 14 policy updates,” Google’s Christophe Combette says Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) policy will require developers to ask for permission to track users, “even if they already have user consent.”

How Google is complying with ATT

In reality, the new ATT policy will require users to opt-in to be tracked on a per-app basis. Before the change, tracking was enabled by default.

When Apple’s policy goes into effect, we will no longer use information (such as IDFA) that falls under ATT for the handful of our iOS apps that currently use it for advertising purposes. As such, we will not show the ATT prompt on those apps, in line with Apple’s guidance.

Maybe app publishers, Google and the whole advertising industry should be focusing on finding better ways to target personalized ads at users than invading their privacy en masse?

Just my two cents…

What is ad tracking?

Here’s how Apple defines tracking on its developer website:

Tracking refers to the act of linking user or device data collected from your app with user or device data collected from other companies’ apps, websites, or offline properties for targeted advertising or advertising measurement purposes. Tracking also refers to sharing user or device data with data brokers.

iOS 14, iPadOS 14 and tvOS 14 require developers to seek permission to track people or access their UDIDs by using Apple’s new AppTrackingTransparency framework.

Tracking refers to the act of linking user or device data collected from your app with user or device data collected from other companies’ apps, websites, or offline properties for targeted advertising or advertising measurement purposes. Tracking also refers to sharing user or device data with data brokers.

Some of the examples of ad tracking include displaying targeted advertisements in an app based on user data collected from apps and websites owned by other companies, as well as sharing your device location data or email lists with a data broker.

Sharing a list of emails, advertising IDs or other IDs with a third-party ad network that uses that information to retarget those users in other developers’ apps or to find similar users also constitutes ad tracking. The same goes for using an analytics SDK that repurposes the data it collects from an app to enable targeted advertising in other developers’ apps.

Of course, this isn’t the complete list as there are other examples of ad tracking out there.

Privacy labels for Google apps coming soon

Google warns of the impact of the upcoming changes:

Apple’s ATT changes will reduce visibility into key metrics that show how ads drive conversions (like app installs and sales) and will affect how advertisers value and bid on ad impressions. As such, app publishers may see a significant impact to their Google ad revenue on iOS after Apple’s ATT policies take effect.

Google says it’s working with the industry to “give Apple feedback” on how to improve the accuracy of campaign measurements. Advertisers may need to make adjustments to budgets and bids to achieve their goals. Display, video and other ads that promote web-based conversion goals “may see performance fluctuations” as Apple’s new tracking policies go into effect.

iPhone screenshots showing App Store listings for the Google Maps, YouTube, Gmail, Google Docs and Chrome apps with no information in the App Privacy section

Interestingly, Google clarifies that it will soon be adding tracking information to the App Store’s new App Privacy section for all its iOS apps. “We are working hard to understand and comply with Apple’s guidelines for all of our apps in the App Store,” reads the blog post.

“As our iOS apps are updated with new features or bug fixes, you’ll see updates to our app page listings that include the new App Privacy Details.”

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