Apple's IDFA privacy changes are going to have an impact, but nobody knows how much

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What you need to know

  • Apple has an anti-tracking feature coming to its devices that will hamper advertisers, but nobody knows how badly.
  • Ad companies are going to have to wait and see before making any decisions.

Apple's plans to force advertisers to ask users for their permission to track them before doing has caused quite the stir already and it hasn't even gone live yet. According to a new report advertising agencies are completely in the dark about how the impending changes will impact them and their customers.

A new DigiDay report notes that the expectations are that costs will go up, but that's about it.

There's a general consensus that costs will go up once fewer companies are able to use Apple's mobile Identifiers for Advertisers mobile identifier to track people. The harder it gets to track people the more it costs to see who clicks on what ad and whether doing so leads to an app being installed or some other lower-funnel action. But beyond this very basic outline of the future, no one knows what to expect.

Bryan Karas, CEO of performance marketing agency Playbook Media, says that "everyone is nervous about the future" but to what extent advertising agencies will be impacted, they just don't yet know. Some are already starting to look at moving advertising dollars from iOS to Android, however.

"We are definitely seeing this trend happening," said Sergio Serra, senior product manager for the supply-side platform strategic business unit at ad tech vendor Inmobi. "Without a consistent identifier for iOS supply, and until the point Google officially moves into a similar regimen, marketers are actually more likely to keep the status quo and temporarily outclass the importance of iOS for their media plans."

Apple for its part simply doesn't care. Its concern is with making its customers safer and protecting their privacy wherever possible. Preventing ad companies from following them and their actions via their unique identifiers is just one part of Apple's privacy push and it's important to note that it isn't even actually preventing anything. It's simply giving users the chance to opt in or out of that tracking as they see fit.

You can read more advertising agency handwringing over in the original DigiDay report.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.