Data Privacy Changes in 2021: iOS 14 & 3rd Party Cookies

Data Privacy Changes in 2021: iOS 14 & 3rd Party Cookies

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There’s an ongoing internal battle happening among online platforms. Protecting users’ privacy vs. sharing data for advertisers to work in more refined ways. The two don’t exactly go hand-in-hand. However, following widespread concerns about the privacy of Facebook and WhatsApp users, for example, some changes are expected to roll out this year – with user data security at their heart.

The general consensus about data privacy in 2021 is that companies will have to be more deliberate and transparent in the way user data is collected. Two of the most significant changes  are around iOS 14 and 3rd party cookies. Let’s take a dive into what we can expect, and what the changes will mean for users and advertisers.

Apple’s iOS 14 privacy move

Apple has confirmed new privacy features in their iOS 14 update. According to the brand, the features will “improve user transparency and control over how apps access your location, photos, microphone, and camera.” And it’s set to be a game-changer for iPhone users.

Back in 2020, Apple announced an App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature which would require that all apps gain explicit permission from users before they’re allowed to track them, but the date was pushed out because of backlash from companies like Facebook. Instead, ATT became a major part of the iOS 14 rollout this year.

So what’s new?

Before the update, users were not given the explicit option to opt-in or out of data sharing with apps. When you used an app on your phone, companies could then track you across other apps and websites, for targeted advertising purposes. This tracker was known as the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) and while it shared information about your online activity, it didn’t share your personal information.

Apple is now adding more transparency to the process. Users get to say whether or not apps can track them. It’s a highly user-centric feature, which focuses on opting in for what you do want, rather than opting out of what you don’t. While this gives users more control over the data they share, they will find that ads they see are less personalised.

What does that mean for advertisers?

Before the iOS 14 update, around 70% of users shared their IDFA with apps. That figure is expected to drop to around 10%.

There are two main ways this will impact digital advertisers:

  1. Ad targeting – many types of targeting, such as device-level targeting, will no longer work for users that have opted out of IDFA sharing. That means advertisers will likely see a reduction in audiences they can target.
  2. Ad measurement – Mobile Measurement Partners (MMPs) had previously used the IDFA identifier to build their measurement and fraud abilities. With this gone, there’s likely to be less data for MMPs to measure fraud and performance with.

With mobile app targeting taking a hit, app developers and marketers are on the look-out for new ways to hyper-target users.

The phasing out of 3rd party cookies

In another move towards more data privacy, Google is set to phase out the use of 3rd party cookies over the next year or two. This will apply to Chrome, with Safari and Firefox having already phased out the cookie. In March 2021, Google announced that it “will not build alternate identifiers to track individuals as they browse across the web”. They also said that 81% of people believe the risks they face because of data collection outweigh the benefits.

So what does it all mean?

What is a 3rd party cookie?

3rd party cookies have been long used by advertisers to track website visitors, collect their data and use this to build better user experiences and more targeted ads. They can also show brands what their visitors are getting up to in other parts of the web.

On the more technical side of things, cookies are a small bit of data that’s stored as a text file. They let websites keep track of user behaviour, making them handy for features like shopping carts, login details and remembering your location.

What does that mean for users and advertisers?

Over the years, cookies have picked up a negative reputation amongst online users, mostly because of misuse from advertisers. And, because 3rd party cookies are unable to track users across multiple devices or apps, they weren’t all that great at building the full picture, so users were not getting the seamless journey they wanted.

So while the phase-out might seem alarming at first, there’s no reason to panic. Marketers and data engineers are working on alternative solutions such as Privacy Sandbox, which will push out improper tracking and enable sophisticated ad targeting within Google Chrome.

Let us worry about the technicalities

In the wake of changes in digital marketing (of which there are many!), the best thing to do is stay up-to-date with related news so you can understand how it might impact your business. The team at Abstract Digital love that stuff. When we become your partner, we’re also on-hand for advertising consultancy and making sure your business stays on top of emerging trends.

Get in touch to find out more about our suite of services.

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