IOS 14.5 Update: Impact on Ad Tracking

Every time when a major internet player like Google or Apple presents a privacy-related update, search engines are flooded with questions about how the update will affect ad tracking.

To give a short answer to the question posed in today’s article, the iOS 14.5 update will not affect tracking in any way. PeerClick has already foreseen all the risks and found workarounds.

However, the update will affect other aspects of advertising. More about this below.

Where are we now?

During this article writing, the latest iOS version available in the stable release is 14.4.2.

Third-party cookies have been blocked in Safari since version 13, which affected tracking to some extent. Now you have to choose the right domains to work in Safari.

If the tracking domain is a subdomain of the one used for the offer and / or the landing (for example, the tracking domain is “track.xyz.com” and the landing page uses “xyz.com domain”), the cookies left by PeerClick will be processed as first party cookies. Hence, they will not be blocked.

If the domain names are different, then the cookies will be treated as third-party and will be blocked.

Update 13 and beyond also added several mechanisms that limit the lifetime of cookies in certain scenarios, detect third-party cookies more thoroughly, and so on.

14.5 doesn’t differ much from previous versions.

Changes in the iOS 14.5 update

In addition to a long list of new updates, iOS 14.5 requires a specific user agreement (a special pop-up will be displayed) before an app can access the device’s IDFA.

What is IDFA?

It stands for ID For Advertisers and it is a unique identifier for each iPhone that will be used by advertisers.

IDFA is used to track a specific device between mobile apps.

For example, Facebook shows you ads for a mobile game. The Facebook app reads your IDFA and stores it on its servers, with a small note indicating that this ad has been shown to you. When you install this game, Facebook attributes this fact to the advertisements it displayed earlier.

In previous versions of iOS, it was possible to block access to IDFA for all applications, including those from Apple, in the iPhone settings menu. But by default, access was granted.

The iOS 14.5 update changes this by requiring each user to give clear permission (called App Tracking Transparency — ATT) to access their IDFA. Thus, unless the user decides otherwise, the IDFA will not be available to the advertiser.

IOS 14.5 update: problems for advertisers

The update will be a big problem for Facebook, which links sales to ads based on IDFA. Facebook ads will become less relevant to users who choose to abandon tracking (most users are expected to do this). It can reduce ad performance and increase your average campaign spend.

The nice thing is that not having access to IDFA will not affect PeerClick. PeerClick uses cookies, HTTP requests and scripts to collect information about visitor activity between websites. IDFA is only used by mobile apps, not web pages. So, while there will be changes in the overall advertising landscape (prices, ad relevance, etc.), PeerClick tracking will still work smoothly.

Be aware that there are other tracking methods besides IDFA that have already been adopted by other big players. Google has stated that it will not collect IDFAs from its iOS apps and therefore will not display the ATT prompt.

! Facebook Ads will continue to work in a workaround way (Facebook has already published an SDK with support for SKAdNetwork, an alternative attribution tracking solution proposed by Apple).

IOS 14.5 update release date

During this article writing, the planned release date is still unknown. However, the date is expected to be announced on April 20th.

Key outputs

Let’s summarize:

  1. If you don’t track installs or additional in-app sales, then iOS 14.5 won’t affect you.
  2. If you use PeerClick to track app installs or add. sales in applications, everything will work correctly. But the work of the third-party elements of the advertising campaign (traffic sources, affiliate networks) can be affected.
  3. Even if your traffic source or affiliate network are affected by the update, they have most likely already taken the right steps to keep themselves safe before Apple makes the change.
  4. If you are still not sure if the necessary measures have been taken, do not hesitate to ask the support team of your traffic source / affiliate network — they will help to clarify everything.

Don’t be afraid — the internet won’t break :)

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