January 19, 2021

Apple iOS 14 privacy changes: what you need to know

Katie Price Ross

Associate Media Director

As 2020 finally came to a close, marketers found themselves in the middle of yet another heated battle - this time between Apple and Facebook. Apple announced some privacy changes with the latest iOS 14 that will require any app running on their system to allow users to opt out of tracking beginning early next year. The change is clear and simple - but Facebook did not take this announcement well, and took out two full page ads in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal to state their opinions. 

       “Apple... will change the Internet as we know it - for the worse.” - Facebook

Well, Apple has always been one to shake the tech industry and this is no exception. But, for the worse? Let’s break this down. 

What Apple’s iOS 14 update entails:

It’s up to each user to opt in or out of allowing apps to track their usage. This tracking includes in-app ad display targeted at users with the aid of third-party data, sharing of location data with brokers, sharing of personally identifiable information like email addresses with third-party ad networks for ad retargeting or lookalike targeting and use of third-party SDKs that use in-app data for commercial ad-targeting services.

What this means for Facebook advertisers:

Facebook heavily relies on data from this type of tracking to optimize, target, and report. We’re going to spend the rest of this post speaking directly to website optimized advertising - those marketing apps have another set of hoops to jump through. Ultimately though, this change will disrupt the ecosystem that Facebook has perfected. Specifically, these things will be impacted:

  • You will only be able to have a max of 8 conversion events - this will be sufficient for most advertisers and is not a cause for alarm. 
  • Reporting will have some limitations, but may lead to higher costs. Without the full amount of data, Facebook’s algorithm won’t be “learning” as easily as it was with this data, so the people who see your ads might not be as likely to take action as they once were, which could lead to a rise in CPA. For web conversion events, Facebook may use statistical modeling to account for conversions from iOS 14 users.
  • Speaking of reporting limitations, delivery and action breakdowns, such as age, gender, region, and placement will not be supported.
  • Retargeting and measuring web events in general is going to get trickier; however, Facebook is releasing an Aggregated Events Measurement that allows for measurement of web events from iOS 14 devices. If you plan to deliver ads for conversion events that occur on your business’s website you should plan to verify your website’s domain to help avoid any future disruption of your website campaigns. 
  • Audience building is a gray area at this point. Without that website data, it’s assumed that Retargeting and Lookalike audiences will become a thing of the past, but with a verified domain, there may be some hope yet. 
  • Attribution windows are shifting - 28-day click-through, 28-day view-through, and 7-day view-through attribution will become unavailable. The following windows will be supported under the new attribution setting: 1-day click; 7-day click (default); 1-day click and 1-day view; 7-day click and 1-day view.

What this means for Facebook & Apple:

This is a little bit of he said/she said. Despite Facebook “fighting” for small business and Apple taking a stand for privacy, at their core, both parties are in it for themselves. Facebook wants to keep accessing user data because it keeps advertisers coming back and helps their bottom line, as outlined in this piece penned by Diyayan Ghosh. Meanwhile, Apple’s own ad platform isn’t subject to the privacy changes and these changes might cause apps to turn to subscriptions and other in-app payments for revenue, meaning Apple will continue to generate revenue.


Important things you need to know:
  • The option for users to opt out of data tracking has always been present on the app, but buried enough that most users didn’t exercise this right. 
  • While these changes do mean less optimization opportunities, experts are projecting costs to drop on platforms. So while you might not be seeing conversion results, awareness and engagement programs might see success. Common Thread believes, “Less success translates into less spend. Less spend, lower CPMs. Lower CPMs, lower cost per acquisition. And lower costs,” which means meaningful scale for advertisers.  
  • This doesn’t just apply to Facebook! Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, Google, YouTube, LinkedIn… Everyone will be impacted. As Kirstein Monllos at DigiDay puts it, “it’s going to affect any platform that has someone go from an Apple product to a platform to a website.”
  • These changes are being introduced at different times and there is not a lot of clarity around when/how, etc.
  • We do not know how many users are going to opt in or out at this point. 
  • We don’t know when this prompt will show up for users. 


Though much is left to be figured out, it’s inevitable that technology is going to continue to change and evolve. Whether you think that these iOS changes are good for digital rights and personal privacy or believe that advertisers should be able to access this data, there is nothing we can do to stop the change. What we can do as marketers is get ahead of the changes, prepare for what we know, adapt in real time as results roll in and continue to optimize as best we can. Reach out to our media team if you want to talk more about how to prep for these upcoming changes! 

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