Apple's impact on the market and attribution development scenarios: overview of IDFA changes in iOS 14

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At WWDC, Apple announced that iOS 14, which is expected to be launched this September, will change the approach to handling the Identifier For Advertisers (IDFA). According to the new rules, all applications will have to request user consent before sending their data to advertising platforms.

As a matter of fact, the deprecation of IDFA, which had been predicted by many, did not happen: the tool will continue to run, but default IDFA tracking in iOS 14 will be disabled. The user consent will be obtained as follows:

Furthermore, before installing an application, the user will have an opportunity to get an explanation of what data the application collects and passes on to third parties:

What is the IDFA?

IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers) was the only device advertisement identifier on the iOS operating system that was available for all applications and did not change from one app to another. Thanks to this, IDFA was widely used for attributing an application traffic source, as well as for user targeting and retargeting. It was this identifier that made it possible to to track a device across multiple applications.

IDFA contains no personally identifiable information and can be updated by the user if desired. When using the IDFA, no personal data linking advertising activity to a real person should be transmitted by the developer.

For myTracker user data protection is the key priority. We make sure that applications do not transfer personally identifiable data to analytics systems. All event and parameter data transferred by the developer undergo automatic template-based checks. If data misuse is suspected, we contact the developer and work out scenarios for data anonymisation and irreversible hashing.

What does Apple offer?

Apple offered advertising networks to use its new SKAdNetwork method, in which case Apple will handle attribution by itself and transfer installation data to the advertising network. However, information about the device on which the application was installed will not be available either to the advertising network or to the promoted application.

What does it mean?

  • The main method of traffic attribution in iOS applications was Device ID Matching, which established the link between the click and the installation through IDFA. The backup option was Fingerprint, which was used if IDFA-based identification failed. With the release of iOS 14, IDFA attribution will practically cease to work, while the second attribution tool (Fingerprint) will remain in place;
  • Attribution data from self-reporting networks (such as Google Ads, DoubleClick and Facebook) was also linked to IDFA-based installation, which means that these channels will no longer be able to attribute data the way they did before;
  • Targeting specific devices based on actions taken or other impersonal features (and hence retargeting) will become less precise, because IDFA was used by networks as an identifier of devices for targeted advertising.
  • CPA and RevShare campaigns will become more complicated (or will be rendered impossible), as IDFA is required to link a traffic source to user's in-app activity;
  • Anti-fraud and bot detection solutions will no longer have sufficient click and user acquisition channel data;
  • The future of user-level data (effectiveness of advertising on individual devices) on advertising monetisation is not yet clear, as attribution is the tool that enables advertising networks to determine revenue from CPI/CPA campaigns.

Users will feel the pinch from IDFA changes as well. For example, some applications that monetised through in-app advertising may start charging fees for certain options or become fully paid.

Having assessed possible scenarios for iOS, we enhanced the role of Fingerprint in myTracker without compromising the quality of user experience. Our solution uses a set of impersonal device parameters, which allow linking an advertising interaction to app installation in cases where IDFA is not transmitted.

What are the possible scenarios?

We keep a close eye on the industry and support the development of alternative solutions that will secure both user privacy and correct attribution. Now it is still difficult to predict how the market will respond, but the key probable scenarios are as follows:

  1. After the release of iOS 14, the share of audience with disabled IDFA will increase from the current 10–15%. To encourage user consent to impersonal data transfer, market players can work out ways to motivate the audience;
  2. Advertising networks can develop and standardise one or more ways to identify a device by other parameters, for example, by a set of data about the device name, MAC address and OS version. This is roughly how it worked before the IDFA;
  3. The market is already discussing potential alliances of advertising and attribution platforms to negotiate creation of in-house identifiers with direct data exchange between them;
  4. The industry will try to make Apple deliver a decent IDFA replacement that would support attribution while also securing user anonymity. We are seeing such offers from market players (Adjust, Appsflyer) and are working towards this goal.

Please mind that the changes will only affect iOS devices. Analytics and all marketing tools will continue to work the same way as they did before for 87% of smartphones all over the world, as Google has not yet announced any changes in GAID for Android.