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What’s happening to Apple’s IDFA, and what does it mean for marketers?

What is IDFA?

Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) is a unique, random, and resettable device identifier (IDs) assigned to a user’s iOS device. This acronym only applies to iOS devices, as Android has their own identifier called Android Advertising ID (AAID).

These deterministic IDs are used to precisely track users who interact with in-app ads and track installs, depending on the goal of the campaign. Since IDs are random and resettable, there is no violation of a user’s PII data.

The IDFA tracking is currently enabled by default, however, users have the ability to opt out by enabling the Limit Ad Tracking (LAT) feature on their device. LAT essentially replaces the random IDFA number with a string of zeros so the user’s IDFA appears blank when tracked.

Since the device appears to have no identity when this feature is enabled, in-app targeting and tracking of attribution and conversion events is disabled.

Change is coming

With mounting global consumer privacy concerns surrounding user data collection and tracking, Apple announced that restrictions were coming to the IDFA in June 2020, with the release of iOS14 planned for September.

However, Apple then announced in the first week of September that the new IDFA changes had been postponed and are now slated for early 2021. The extension allows app developers the required time to make the updates.

What exactly are the changes?

Apple is not eliminating the IDFA as of right now, however, it will be making it an opt-in choice for every single app. In other words, if an app wants to use the IDFA for measurement, users will now be presented with a pop up asking for their consent.  Here’s an example:

IDFA Changes

How will this affect mobile advertising campaigns?

Facebook is one of the largest publishers that relies on IDFA to support its Audience Network and to send targeted personalized ads to users. If a high number of users do not opt in for IDFA permission (which is expected), this will make it difficult for Facebook to target and measure users within third-party apps.

If apps that are part of Audience Network stop making money on iOS14 devices, there leaves little incentive for them to be a part of the network, therefore decreasing the scale and reach of the platform.

Recent Update

Apple announced Tuesday, 4.20.21 that the new App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework will be released next Monday, 4.26.21 across all Apple Devices.  

Please see below for the official release from Apple:

With the upcoming public release of iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5, and tvOS 14.5, all apps must use the AppTrackingTransparency framework to request the user’s permission to track them or to access their device's advertising identifier. Unless you receive permission from the user to enable tracking, the device's advertising identifier value will be all zeros and you may not track them.

When submitting your app for review, any other form of tracking — for example, by name or email address — must be declared in the product page’s App Store Privacy Information section and be performed only if permission is granted through AppTrackingTransparency. You'll also need to include a purpose string in the system prompt to explain why you'd like to track the user, per App Store Review Guideline 5.1.2(i). These requirements apply to all apps starting April 26, 2021.

As a reminder, collecting device and usage data with the intent of deriving a unique representation of a user, or fingerprinting, continues to be a violation of the Apple Developer Program License Agreement.

Want to learn more? Check out other critical media topics here.