tracking battles

There has been a battle brewing the last few months between Apple and many app developers over Apple’s new privacy disclosures. The highest profile salvo was Facebook’s full page ad taking Apple to task and claiming to be standing up for small business. Apple replied that it was standing up for users. At the heart of this battle is tracking user actions within apps. As most users blindly click “accept” when installing an app, they are agreeing to a lot of actions under the hood. The tracking data is key to advertising revenue for app developers. Facebook’s entire business model depends on deep data on users.

Apple’s change in the next iOS update will pop up a warning to users that the app they’re using wants to collect certain identifiers and will require the user to expressly grant that permission (instead of having it be part of the blanket “agree”). This ArsTechnica piece talks about how some developers plan to use even more invasive tracking techniques to try and get around the Apple privacy changes. These techniques are not allowed by Apple but can be hard to catch.

This will play out over 2021, but look for a lot more rhetoric from both sides along with some creative coding to try and extract the data advertisers want while avoiding efforts to curtail – or at least be up-front about – tracking. Current social media business models are so tied to deep user data that this battle will not go quickly or quietly.

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