Privacy in the mobile world has always been a topic, and in the last two decades, our data has been used to sell advertising. But recently, Governments started speaking out. Finally, causing phone companies to take privacy seriously… or so it seemed.

iOS Updates

Chances are, you own an iPhone or know someone who does. But, on June the 22nd, 2020, Apple did something quite extraordinary when announcing its fourteenth major iOS mobile operating system.

As consumers celebrated a win for privacy, a monumental shift was about to begin in the advertising industry.

So how did a single update cause so much controversy? And how did the global tech giant manage to reshape the advertising industry seemingly overnight?

Like any other developer platform, Apple has terms and conditions associated with their app store, and if a company launches its app on the store, they’ve agreed to Apple’s terms. However, in 2021, Apple made a subtle change to its conditions, which had a ripple effect on advertisers worldwide.

Meta (Facebook)

Facebook is the largest social media platform on the planet. It has been downloaded more than 45 million times on the iOS store alone. It generates hundreds of millions in revenue for companies advertising on their platform. It does that by using a sophisticated targeting algorithm known as AI (Artificial Intelligence). So no doubt you have noticed adverts following you around wherever you go, popping up on your articles, visible on Instagram stories. And yep, we’ve all done it, joked that Facebook is eavesdropping on our conversations, then we wonder, what if they are?

Here’s the thing.

What if I told you that you automatically opted in to view those ads by the very act of accepting Facebook’s terms and conditions. As a result, your adverts are now “personalised.” In the advertising world, this is known as “retargeting.”

online advertising that is specifically targeted at consumers based on their ongoing internet behaviour.

It changes every time you bounce from one website to another. It happens INSTANTLY. You click on a website, you see an ad. You add a product to your shopping cart, and you see an ad, you like, share or comment, you see an ad. It’s a technological marvel, but there is also something incredibly invasive about it. As businesses started to grow on Facebook’s advertising platform, the algorithm became smarter, laying the foundations for global personalised advertising. 

There was just one problem.

You.

You, the consumer, were no longer aware of just how sophisticated the advertising platforms had become. 

The Privacy Debate

Apple appeared to be siding with the consumer when it requested its developers to be more transparent. It meant that, from now on, it was a prerequisite that the users grant permission to enable tracking of their activity, alienating the software companies that rely on advertising as their primary source of revenue. Nevertheless, Apple stuck to its guns. The tech giant had instigated and won its own privacy referendum. Apple had overnight positioned itself as the hero, a champion of the consumer.

It was a win for privacy!

We lapped it all up.

The Fallout

For advertisers and businesses, the damage has been staggering. When you consider iPhone users account for more than 50% of total app logins. Opt-outs of personalised advertising are reportedly hitting 96%.

The consequence of iOS14 is less data for advertisers, fewer personalised ads and insufficient reporting. Moreover, as more people opt out, they become more anonymous, creating a shield between businesses and consumers. Apple has reshaped the advertising industry, putting pressure on advertisers to seek out more traditional methods of targeting and reporting.

The big question is…

Does Apple care about your privacy?

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"We believe privacy is a fundamental human right."

Tim Cook

As correct as that may be, it’s essential to view Apple’s stance from a business perspective, as Apple is, after all, a business. For all its high values and lofty missions, and noble statements, it has one underlying goal. Money. So is this new championing of the consumer purely a clever marketing ploy?

Consider this…

Apple makes the majority of its money by selling hardware. Physical products. Machines, wiring, and other physical components of a computer or other electronic system. It means Apple doesn’t need to invade your privacy to make money. Compare that to free, low-cost services like Google and Facebook who collect your data to generate money through advertising. Yet, let’s not be fooled. Apple still collects your data, using a closed ecosystem, a system in place to improve its services. A less intrusive collection of data, but still a collection of data.

As our world continues to grow virtually, the reality is, as consumers, we can never really know how deep these companies delve into our data. How many of us genuinely understand the jargon that rests within the pages and pages of documentation that sit there on our phone’s operational system? Do we even care? Maybe you don’t, maybe you do. So remember, before you opt-out, think critically. Consider the impact on small businesses.

But also consider how important your data is to you.