How iOS 14.5 App Tracking Transparency Impacts Facebook Ads

by | May 28, 2021 | Digital Marketing

The release of iOS 14.5 from Apple introduces the world to App Tracking Transparency, which will affect how consumers receive advertisements across the almost 2 million apps on the App Store—including Facebook. For digital marketers and business owners that rely on Facebook’s targeted advertising, it’s important to know and understand how the addition of App Tracking Transparency will impact advertising.

What Is App Tracking Transparency?

App Tracking Transparency is an update to the Apple Privacy Policy that requires all applications in the App Store to ask users if they will allow tracking outside of the app they’re using. Users will be prompted the first time they open the app whether they allow or deny the app to track their off-app activity. The choice to track can be turned on and off in the Settings menu of the Apple device at any given time.

Previously, apps could track consumers’ spending habits, browsing histories, and current locations without the knowledge of users. iOS 14.5 has changed that. This update gives users more influence over how their information is collected and used than ever had before. Apple has stated that App Tracking Transparency is part of their new privacy initiative, stating that it’s a “simple new feature that puts your data back in your control.”

How Will App Tracking Transparency Impact Facebook?

While Facebook will still be able to track across the apps they own (See the full list below) without directly asking the user, they will no longer be able to track user information across external applications if users don’t want them to. Facebook’s applications are still some of the most popular apps in Apple’s App Store, but this update will have a considerable impact on how they operate in the future.

Facebook relies on information they collect from their users to determine what Facebook ads to show and what posts might interest them. This information even tells them how to group users into demographics to help advertisers extend their reach. While people can easily give this information voluntarily when making a profile, Facebook could get this information from users who didn’t provide it initially by tracking their online behavior.

Facebook is no stranger to privacy issues around sharing customer information. In early 2020, Facebook was required by the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) to disclose to users how its off-site data was being shared through third-party apps. At the time, Facebook wasn’t necessarily happy with having to showcase this information, even providing how-tos for turning tracking on and off.

With this latest update, however, Facebook’s approach has been a bit different. The social network is even going so far as to say that tracking consumers helps to “keep Instagram/Facebook free.” While there may not be much weight in that “threat” to charge people just because they don’t want to be tracked, simply saying it may convince users to not disable tracking on Facebook apps.

Apps that Facebook Owns:

  • Facebook Messenger
  • Instagram
  • WhatsApp
  • GIPHY
  • Oculus VR
  • Whale
  • Masquerade (MSQRD)
  • AUX, Bump, & Tuned, by NPE

Will App Tracking Transparency Hurt Facebook Advertisers?

App Tracking Transparency will have a significant impact on targeted Facebook advertising, due to the lack of information shared about off-site behaviors. But will it actually hurt Facebook ads? That’s yet to be seen.

For now, the answer isn’t clear as to how much advertisers will feel the effects of App Tracking Transparency. For starters, App Tracking Transparency is only active for Apple users, and Facebook still has plenty of opportunities to track users outside of its iOS app. Facebook Pixel, for example, is active and currently collecting information from millions of websites.

The social media platform isn’t exactly short on information to pull internally either. User behavior like who users follow, what posts they engage with, and what pages they like are still collected and tracked across all of Facebook’s apps.

Facebook is responding to the release of App Tracking Transparency by implementing measures like Aggregated Event Measurement, which “will support your efforts to preserve user privacy and help your run effective campaigns.” Additionally, the rollout of iOS 14.5 has been inconsistent, and some consumers are still deciding to opt-in for app tracking, giving marketers and businesses that use Facebook Ads the same ability to reach their audience without much trouble.

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