Some in the mobile ad ecosystem criticize Apple’s IDFA ad tracking changes

Apple is making a huge change to settings on users’ iPhones in the name of privacy, but some in the mobile ad ecosystem the tech giant hasn’t given them clear guidance or communication along the way as they retool their apps, reports CNBC.

The new rules related to the tracking systems are known as Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA). Each iPhone comes with an individual IDFA, which behaves similarly to a browser cookie does for computers, letting third parties identify the user. The basis of Schems’ case is that, under EU law, individuals must consent to this tracking, but IDFA is activated by default inside iOS. 

The identifier for advertisers or IDFA is the only means for advertisers to precisely target and track users within apps on iOS devices. Think of an IDFA as something like a cookie that is tied to devices instead of browsers, in that it enables an advertiser to get notified when a user of a phone has taken an action like clicking on their ad in a browser and then installing, using, or interacting with ads in their app. 

As noted by the Invoca Blog, the identifier is used in non-browser apps, which never had support for cookies. IDFAs only provide advertisers data in aggregate and no individually identifiable data is available.

Apple says it “does not access or use the IDFA on a user’s device for any purpose.” The company says its aim is to protect the privacy of its users and that iOS 14 gives users greater control over whether apps could link with third parties for the purposes of targeted advertising.

With the change, iPhone users will see a pop-up window in each app. The pop-up warns users that an app is tracking their data for advertising purposes, and gives them the option to block the app from doing so

However, some in the mobile ad ecosystem tell CNBC that the change will hurt the ecosystem’s small, independent players. And even if certain players violate Apple’s guidelines, it’s unclear how that behavior would even be discovered, or whether they’d be kicked out of the App Store for violating the rules, they add.