Apple delays privacy-focused iPhone change that could affect Facebook

Apple CEO Tim Cook delivers the keynote address during the 2020 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) at Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California.

Brooks Kraft/Apple Inc/Handout via Reuters

Apple announced on Thursday that a planned change to the iPhone operating system that could impact how Facebook and other mobile advertisers track users will be delayed until early 2021.

In June, Apple said that iPhone users, when opening an app for the first time, would be given an option to allow the app access to an identifier associated with a physical device. Advertisers use the so-called IDFA identifier to better target ads to individual users and estimate how well they work. They expect most users to opt out of sharing it. 

Apple said it now plans to update its App Store rules with more information about the policies later this year and will give developers additional time to adjust.

“We are committed to ensuring users can choose whether or not they allow an app to track them,” Apple said on its developer blog on Thursday. “To give developers time to make necessary changes, apps will be required to obtain permission to track users starting early next year.”

The change to the tracker was previously planned as a feature in iOS 14, the version of the iPhone operating system that will be released to the public this fall. 

Less access to the device identifier is likely to have major implications for mobile advertising. Facebook recently said it’s “seen more than a 50% drop in Audience Network publisher revenue” after individual targeting was removed.

“It’s going to look a lot like the consent forms you see on websites now that say, ‘Do you agree to be tracked?'” said Justin Scarborough, programmatic media director at PMG, in an interview. “And so we know that those adoption rates are pretty low, and we expect that it’s going to be pretty low with mobile as well.”

Apple frames the change as a core part of providing privacy protections to users, rather than as an attack on the advertising industry. It’s also promoting its privacy features as a core reason to get an iPhone, including in a new ad released on Thursday

The Information first reported on the delay

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