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Apple recently started enforcing their App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature with the rollout in iOS 14.5. This feature would theoretically prevent companies from running personalized ads in their apps unless users opt-in, something only 4% of users have reportedly done. This could potentially significantly reduce the efficacy of ads run by companies such as Google and Facebook, and make advertising-funded apps and services less profitable.
Around the same time, Apple has also introduced a new paid ad unit to Apple Search. The ad unit, which shows up before users start searching, is powered by Apple’s own tracking of what you do in apps, which podcasts you listen to, which TV shows you watch on Apple TV, which apps you have installed and so forth.
Apple excuses their own tracking by noting that they only rely on their own data, and do not share the data with advertisers. In addition, they do not target specific users, but groups of 5000 users with very similar behaviour to you instead.
MobileDevMemo however notes that the Apple platform is very extensive, so even if Apple only tracks users on their own platform this is still a huge amount of personal data. Also this is theoretically no different from Google using the Chrome browser to collect data for their own search ad network on the web, based on your behaviour using their browser on the web (which is more or less what Google’s FLoC proposal is).
If the main differentiator is whether the data is shared with others, MobileDevMemo notes that this just increases the incentive for ad companies to expand their reach so they can collect more first-party data from you.
More significantly, however, do not be surprised when you hit Apple Search to see an ad for the Capital One Loan app if you subscribe to the Frugal podcast.
Read more on the issue at MobileDevMemo here.