This is what Facebook was always afraid of: a conscious choice

Is it that surprising that 9 out of 10 iOS users don't want to be constantly tracked across apps and sites?

Apple’s new App Tracking Transparency policy is proving to be extremely popular with iPhone and iPad users, just as data-collecting services like Facebook were afraid it would. (Image: Pixabay, Pexels)


The numbers are in and they could not be more telling: during this second week that iPhone and iPad users have had the App Tracking Transparency policy available to them by installing the iOS 14.5 update, they overwhelmingly embraced it. According to analytics firm Flurry, no less than 87% of those Apple devices' owners globally and no less than 96% (!) of them in the US chose the "do not track me across apps and websites" option for data collection and advertisement targeting that the new App Tracking Transparency policy offers.

These percentages are way, way higher than what surveys conducted before the release of iOS 14.5 predicted: almost all of them were in agreement regarding the majority of consumers opting out of tracking, but some had indicated that almost 40% of users would allow tracking in order to get targeted, personalized ads instead of generic ones (ads we will be getting one way or the other). The difference between 40% and 13% globally is vast. It's worth noting that "just" 32% of iOS users had searched for and activated the less effective Limit Ad Tracking option (conveniently buried under several submenus) in iOS 13.

Apple’s way of offering consumers the option to let ad tracking follow them from app to app and website to website is clear and inviting. (Image: Pixabay, Pexels)


What this goes to show, of course, is that people do value privacy and will indeed choose not to share personal data and/or ad identifiers if the option is presented to them, instead of them discovering it by reading about it somewhere and actively seeking it out in an operating system's numerous menus. It probably also means that most people do not care about personalized ads or, at the very least, not enough so as to allow data collection and ad tracking in order to have them displayed.

What these numbers most certainly show, though, is that almost all consumers will almost always make the conscious choice of disabling data gathering and ad tracking if that option is clearly presented to them - and that was what Facebook, the most vocal critic of Apple's App Tracking Transparency policy, was always afraid of. Not only does an important part of Facebook's business depend on ad tracking, but much of its business is based on the assumption that few people use its apps and website in anything other than the default settings anyway. This is, of course, sadly true: not many go into the trouble of adjusting the privacy and/or ad targeting settings offered to them and even less check up on those on a regular basis.

Facebook opposed Apple’s new privacy policy in iOS 14.5 vehemently and may continue to do so, but it also expects its own ad business to benefit from these changes. (Image: Pixabay, Pexels)


The whole point of Facebook and others "burying" that choice and those options in menus and submenus is to make them more difficult to actually take advantage of - the exact opposite of what Apple's App Tracking Transparency implementation does, which is displaying a requester taking over the whole screen, informing the user of his/her two options and inviting him/her to make a clear choice. It's almost too easy, which is how Apple tried to make a point: that, in this company's opinion, for much too long making that choice has been self-serving difficult. Which is, sadly, also true.

The App Tracking Transparency policy implementation of iOS 14.5 is far from perfect, of course, and it certainly isn't a cure-all for all the ills of modern digital advertising. Apple knows this already. By implementing it, though, the Cupertino giant earns goodwill points in the eyes of privacy-conscious consumers and raises awareness of the whole "data collection and ad tracking across apps and sites" issue. Facebook, ironically, stands to lose some revenue since its data on ad targeting on other sites and apps will not be as valuable to agencies anymore, but it also stands to gain as its own sets of user data gathered on Facebook's website and app now become more valuable to its own advertisers. Win some, lose some for everyone involved, it seems!