iOS 13’s New Privacy Features Mean Big Changes for iPhone Users and Marketers

Apple iOS 13 was released in September, and with it came a slew of new privacy features. In an era of increasing digital privacy concerns, this is great news for Apple customers. However, these changes are making major waves for digital businesses that are trying to connect with and understand their audiences.

Marketers especially will feel the effects of Sign in with Apple, enhanced location privacy settings and default tracking changes in Safari. These are likely to impact not only the collection of first-party data by businesses, but third-party user tracking for digital advertising purposes.

We’re here with a rundown of all the new privacy features Apple has to offer and how each one will affect consumers, businesses and marketers.

Sign in with Apple

How will this affect you as a consumer?

Isn’t it convenient when apps and sites allow you to sign in with your Gmail or Facebook login? iOS 13 introduced Sign in with Apple, which allows you to do the same with your Apple ID. But instead of allowing Google or Facebook to use that sign-in information to target you with ads, Apple promises not to use your information for targeting purposes. Because you can use Apple ID across devices, Windows and Android users may also adopt this sign-in option. While it will most impact iOS users, it could quickly expand to users on other devices, depending on its popularity.

What if you don’t want to share your email address with the app or site? iOS 13 provides the option to hide your email address and instead create a new, disposable address in order to keep yours hidden. All communication sent to the disposable address will then be forwarded to your personal address. When you choose to delete your account for that app or site, they won’t have your personal address to continue contacting you.

How will this affect businesses and marketers?

In order to target users with ads and other catered content, businesses and marketers use unique identifiers for their audience members. Email addresses are unique identifiers that allow tracking across multiple sites and apps. As the popularity of Sign in with Apple grows, it will inhibit businesses from building their email databases using addresses collected from account logins. This will make it more difficult for businesses to connect with their users, personalize content, and target and retarget users with advertising. 

If users choose to create disposable email addresses for separate apps and sites, this may lead to duplicate accounts for single users and increasingly large email databases. With duplicate and outdated accounts, it will be more challenging to reach users. For businesses looking to continue collecting user information, they will need to incentivize the collection of first-party data. Even though users can utilize Sign in with Apple for iOS apps, businesses can still collect additional information in their platform at the user’s discretion. With enticing offers and benefits for users who opt in to sharing their information, businesses may still be able to collect the information they need in order to create impactful advertising. But, the collection of first-party data comes with the responsibility of protecting that data. The CCPA will go into effect in 2020 and bring new privacy standards to the U.S. Before collecting user data, it’s critical to be well informed on both your business’s obligations for data security and how your business will meet those.

Enhanced Location Privacy Settings

How will this affect you as a consumer?

Concerned that your location is being shared with apps and sites without your knowledge? iOS 13 has a solution for that. When first opening an app prior to iOS 13, you had the option to share your location indefinitely, only when the app is in use, or never. Now there’s an option to “Allow Once,” which requires the app to request your location information each time it’s opened. This will keep the app from accessing your location data even when you’re not using the app and require your permission when you open it again.

Along with these new location-sharing options, iOS 13 requires apps to ask permission before gaining access to your Bluetooth or WiFi connection. These are often used by brands with beacons in stores to know when you’re shopping there. This sensor is also used for general location tracking, so by rejecting access, you can block that tracking. For audio-streaming apps, you may assume you need Bluetooth permission in order to use wireless headphones. But Bluetooth audio is handled in your system settings rather than your apps, so you don’t have to allow audio-streaming apps access to your Bluetooth for connection to separate devices. 

The last important location-sharing option will protect your photo data when sharing photos on third-party apps. When a photo is taken on the iPhone, metadata that includes location information is saved along with the photo. This can be helpful for organizing photos on your phone, but when sharing photos in apps or through messages, this metadata is accessible along with the photo. With iOS 13, you can remove this additional data before sharing the photo.

How will this affect businesses and marketers?

These features will affect apps that rely on running in the background with location tracking enabled in order to serve relevant content to users. Now that users can opt out of both Bluetooth connection and location tracking, it will be challenging for businesses to track location consistently. In addition to this, segmenting audiences based on location will be more difficult. In order to obtain location data from users, apps will need incentives and the proper data security measures in place. Trust is the key component for businesses hoping to continue collecting valuable user information.

Tracking Permissions in Safari

How will this affect you as a consumer?

iOS 13 Safari updates allow you to select whether individual sites can access your camera, microphone, or location. Cross-site tracking is also blocked by default with the new update. This kind of tracking allows sites and third-party advertisers to follow your activity across multiple domains. Safari utilizes the open-source WebKit web browser engine, which has a feature called Intelligent Tracking Prevention. This feature manages cookies to ensure that user information isn’t tracked across sites. The idea is not to limit marketers’ ability to measure online ad performance, but rather protect individual users’ online activity patterns. Digital businesses can use mechanisms like link decoration, device fingerprinting and cookies to track user moves across multiple domains. With iOS 13, these mechanisms are blocked so your identity is not tied to your online activity patterns. Apple promises to limit the unintended impact of these updates and not allow them to negatively impact user experience.

How will this affect businesses and marketers?

In the past, developers have found workarounds for Safari cookie-tracking updates. These strategies included moving first-party cookies to other forms of data storage and adding code to their referrer URL to track their users across additional domains. Now, this non-cookie data will be deleted after seven days if the user hasn’t returned to the site, meaning it can no longer be used for long-term user tracking. This still gives marketers seven days for conversion attribution, but for many businesses, this is not enough time.

As of September 2019, Safari only accounted for 16% of the global browser market, limiting the impact of these changes for marketers. Unfortunately, this non-cookie based data is often stored to improve user experience, so deletion of this data could have further implications for online experience. Many advertisers consider this update to be minor since marketers will have access to their non-cookie based data for seven days rather than only 24 hours. Past cookie-related tracking updates have been more harsh for advertisers that rely on cookie-based tracking.

iOS 13 introduces measures that will positively impact consumers but will create challenges for digital businesses and marketers. A group of app developers have already reacted to the update, accusing Apple of anti-competitive behavior. This accusation stems from iOS 13’s location tracking features. Now that there isn’t an option to ‘Always Allow’ location tracking within an app’s interface, users will have to enable constant location tracking in their settings. For some apps, location tracking is necessary for functionality, and users may abandon the app because it appears broken. Apple’s apps like ‘Find My’ don’t have this extra step for enabling location tracking, raising anti-competitive concerns. Apple may be leading the charge for user privacy, but at the expense of user experience.

In an ideal scenario, Apple would protect user privacy while also supporting the businesses that rely on their platform. In the meantime, we’ll have our fingers crossed.

Written by Mary Grace Walsh on October 24, 2019


Add A Comment
Written by
Mary Grace Walsh