iOS users must now give explicit permission for apps to track their behavior and sell their personal data, such as age, location, spending habits and health information, to advertisers. While many apps have allowed people to manage or opt-out of this for years, it’s typically buried deep in user settings and wordy privacy policies.
Developers are now required to ask users via a pop-up alert if they can “track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites.” People who opt-out will see fewer personalized ads. The app developer controls when the prompt appears. And once a user makes their choice, they can change their mind in the settings.
“This has been happening without your knowledge or permission. Your information is for sale. You have become the product,” Apple said in the video.
“People are going to have a bit of a fire inside them and jump to opt-out of Facebook selling their data,” Mike Audi, founder and CEO of TIKI, a service that allows users to see what data and how companies are tracking them online. “The result is that brands we’d actually want to share our data with may no longer get the data they rely on to provide you with a seamless, hyper-personalized customer experience.”
The business impact
Data experts say large companies like Facebook and other well-known brands will have to work to navigate the changes, but it’s the small to medium-sized businesses that may not have certain resources, such as dedicated analytics teams and engineers, that could struggle more to reach potential customers.
“Many small businesses take advantage of data sharing to target and measure ads on Facebook and Instagram,” said Eric Schmitt, senior director analyst at market research firm Gartner. “It is fair to say that the benefits of digital advertising to some of these businesses will decline.”
Facebook has tried to tout the benefits of data collection ahead of Apple’s privacy change. “Agreeing to these prompts doesn’t result in Facebook collecting new types of data. It just means that we can continue to give people better experiences,” it wrote in a blog post in February.
“I’m confident businesses, especially Facebook, will come out just fine after the app tracking transparency functionality roles out,” said Daniel Barber, CEO of data management firm DataGrill. “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.
He said heightened awareness around data privacy could also put more pressure on government officials to develop a federal bill to protect user privacy.
Still, Apple’s iOS change marks the start of a more transparent future, as consumers will be even more aware about how apps handle their data. “The most exciting part is users will start to expect and demand more control over their data,” said Audi. “The fastest way to get a company to make a change is for their users to get upset.”
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