Over the last few months discussion surrounding digital privacy has risen to fever pitch. These issues were first brought to wide public attention after the first major privacy Apple update coded “nutrition label”. This required developers to give users a summary of how apps use their data. This was then followed by the controversial WhatsApp update that required its users to consent to their data being used across all applications under parent company Facebook. This includes Instagram, Facebook and Messenger.
More recently, Apple rolled out a new major privacy feature that will give iOS users more control on how their data is handled. The new iOS 14.5 update software update mandates app developers to ask their users’ permission to “track their activity across other companies ‘apps and websites”.
This is not a completely novel concept as some apps already offered such options to their users. Most however have those settings buried deep within their settings and this new update will certainly force them to reveal such to their users. It will mandate them to state exactly what kind of data they are collecting from their users (data used to track you and data linked to you). Also, once a user makes a choice, they can change their mind later in the settings.
This new update is a game changer in the tech industry and will further raise user awareness to privacy. Apple even posted a video explaining how exactly such apps collect and use data.” They collect thousands of information about you to create a digital profile they sell to others. These third parties use your profile to target you with ads, and they can use it to predict and influence your behaviors and decisions.”
Apple goes on to explain that this happens “without your knowledge or permission. Your information is for sale. You have become the product.”
Bad News for Ad Businesses
While this has been good news for Apple users who were increasingly getting worried about surveillance, it has not been good news for businesses that depend on ads to attract new customers to their websites.
The ad business is a multi-billion-dollar business and it works effectively because companies use their prospective customers data to generate ads. These are personalized so as to attract your attention better. This new update will give people the choice of opting out of this system and many are projected to do so. This means that ads will be less personalized and thus less effective.
Facebook was especially riled up about these changes which threaten to diminish their 25 billion-dollar ad revenue generator. Following the announcement Facebook went on to warn investors in August that Apple’s software changes could hurt its business if people start opting-out of tracking. In December Facebook took out ads in the Washington Post, New York Times and Wall Street Journal to explain how the change would “cause “devastating” harm to millions of small businesses that advertise on its platform, many of which are grappling with the fallout from the pandemic.”
While Facebook may have been trying to protect its bottom line, it is true that Apple’s move will definitely hurt small and medium sized businesses who rely on ads to generate new sales. Such businesses lack resources like analytics teams, growth hackers and engineers to generate new leads on their own.
Some are optimistic and wholeheartedly welcome the change. Daniel Barber, CEO of data management firm DataGrail is of the opinion that “Change spurs innovation, and I expect Facebook, ad-tech companies, and any other businesses impacted by this to find innovative new ways to communicate with their audiences.”