iOS 10 Limit Ad Tracking

Apple recently released iOS 10. It's got a bigger font and you can swipe in some new places. Also something about iMessage. But most importantly for us at TripleLift, it significantly modified a feature called Limit Ad Tracking. This is buried deep in system settings, and thus will not fundamentally upend the market, but this represents a noteworthy continuation of Apple moving away from identity-based advertising. Currently, roughly 15% of users have this selected, with the number apparently declining as of late.

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Previous versions of iOS included a "Limit Ad Tracking" setting that would, when enabled, send the fact that the user had selected this, along with the user's ID for Advertising (IDFA). Apple's policies required some degree of respect for this selection, but it still technically allowed for anything a bad actor wanted to do. As of iOS 10, the same setting, when enabled, will zero out the user's IDFA. This means conversion attribution, frequency capping, unique user counts, etc - all things that were previously permitted in iOS 9 under Limit Ad Tracking, are now technically impossible (-ish).

Each app has 2 user IDs. One is for advertising (IDFA), and is persistent for that user across all apps. The other is the Vendor ID, which allows apps to access an app-specific ID that they can use - even when the IDFA is zero'd out. So if an app has the user's email, and advertising company has the user's email, they could key off the email and then user the vendor ID. This would allow an app to extend its user ID matching everywhere that they have an email or similar. Ironically, this creates a worse privacy regime than before, though it is likely (or will be) against Apple's policies.

TripleLift does not leverage user data the way other vendors do, however we do benefit from those other vendors submitting higher bids for users that they've developed rich profiles for. So this move would impact us at roughly the same way it impacts mobile app monetization as a whole. Companies that are more immediately impacted are those that primarily or entirely targeting based on IDFA, which especially includes Facebook (FAN) and Google. Apple has a long-stated bias away from user targeting, and this may simply be a continuation of that policy and/or a push towards premium, subscription models from which Apple takes a direct cut.