Recently announced changes to the latest Apple iOS operating system, (iOS 14), have made it necessary for users to actively opt in to the kind of tracking that Facebook has leveraged into the accurate targeting that underpins its profitable paid marketing service.

Originally announced earlier last year, Facebook pushed back enough that Apple delayed the launch, but warned it would be implemented in February 2021.

Opt-In Vs Opt-Out

It has technically been possible for users to opt out from this kind of tracking for a long time. The ability to do so though was concealed beneath layers of menus and settings, and few people bothered to take the time to do it, or even knew that it was possible or (possibly) desireable.

The big change now though is that, in line with rapidly evolving global privacy standards (including our own POPI Act, which will come into full force in July this year), it is no longer considered sufficient for users to have the ability to opt out if they wish.

Instead, users must now actively opt in to your marketing material or your targeting or tracking. Opted in is no longer the default behaviour. Instead, being opted out is given default status.

What It Means For Facebook

The change is going to have a serious effect on Facebook targeting, with the following reported to be the major issues:

  • Ads Manager, Ads Reporting and Ads Insight API will all be affected.
  • No more 28-day attribution.
  • No more 7-day “view-through” attribution.
  • 7-day click attribution will still be possible however.

To try and account for data lost from iOS14 users, Facebook will be using statistical models, (indicated in reports by annotations), and some reports will only have partial data. Imported conversion events will also be affected, and reports will no longer be broken down by demographic segments. It should go without saying that this will have a huge impact on measuring the effectiveness of campaigns on Facebook, not to mention accurately targeting them.

Aggregated Event Measurement

Facebooks response is the implementation of “Aggregated Event Measurement.” According to Facebook, it’s “designed to help you measure campaign performance in a way that is consistent with consumers’ decisions about their data.”

Moving forward, advertisers will be able limited to only 8 events per domain, only one of which will be counted for any given user, based on its priority. This apparently means that if you have a user who performs multiple actions, only the action triggering the event with the highest priority will be counted. Event changes (by the advertiser) will be delayed by 3 days before being able to be used, apparently to ensure the are reporting correctly, and pixels will be linked on a per domain basis, rather than the previous “per account” one.

Platform Implications

It’s not yet know what implications the change will have on other platforms that use similar technology to track and target advertising, but it would seem self-evident that more than just Facebook will be affected.  Google has long since stated that it would be going “cookie free,” supposedly by 2022, and right now, the general recommendation seems to be to improve UTM usage, and pay closer attention to Analytics data to fill in the gaps.

Another factor of course is that this only affects data from users on iOS14, and it’s too soon to know to what extent users will refuse to opt in.  That said however, it would be realistic to expect many “opt-outs” as it were, given the psychological response users tend to have to privacy issues, whether real or perceived.

Update:

Apple has just announced several “security vulnerabilities” in an earlier version of the iOS and is encouraging all users to update to the latest version as soon as possible for their security…