iOS 14.5 Update: How It Affects Ad Tracking

Every time a major Internet stakeholder, such as Google or Apple, makes a privacy-related update, the Internet is flooded with queries asking how it will affect ad tracking.

Let me say it this way: the alternative title for this article was ‘The end of the world that never came’.

That’s it. If you want the short answer, then no, iOS 14.5 does not break or even affect tracking in the way that is provided by Voluum.

But some other things may be affected. More on them below.

Where were we before?

Before the iOS 14.6 rollout, 3rd party cookies have been blocked on Safari since version 13. This did affect tracking to some degree and you can learn more about tracking without 3rd party cookie support in one of our previous articles

In short, on Safari, you have to choose your domains correctly. If your tracking domain is a subdomain of the one used for your offer and/or lander (so your tracking domain is for example ‘track.xyz.com’ and your lander uses ‘xyz.com domain’), cookies left by Voluum will be treated like 1st party cookies. Therefore, they won’t be blocked.

If the domain names differ, those cookies will be treated as 3rd party and blocked.

The update 13 and subsequent ones have also added several mechanisms that limit cookie lifetime in certain scenarios, more rigorously detect 3rd party cookies and so on.

The 14.5 update didn’t change much in this regard.

iOS 14.5 update changes

Apart from many other feature updates, the iOS 14.5 requires a user’s specific permission (by displaying a special pop-up window) before an app can have access to the device’s IDFA.

What’s IDFA?

It stands for ID For Advertisers and, as you may have guessed, it’s a unique identifier of each iPhone to be used by advertisers. 

IDFA is used to track a specific device between mobile apps. 

For example, imagine that Facebook displays a mobile game ad for you. Facebook’s app reads your IDFA and saves it on its servers with a small annotation that this ad has been shown to you. When you actually install this game, Facebook will attribute this fact to the ad that it showed you before.

On previous iOS versions, you could block access to your IDFA for all apps, including Apple’s, in your iPhone’s settings menu. But by default, access was granted.

The iOS 14.5 update changed that by requiring each user to give their explicit permission (called App Tracking Transparency or ATT) to access their IDFA. So, unless a user decides otherwise, IDFA will not be available for advertisers. 

iOS 14.5 update problems for advertisers

This is a big challenge for Facebook that has been relying on IDFA to attribute sales to ads. Its ads may be less relevant for users who decide to opt out from tracking. This may decrease the effectiveness of its ads and inflate average campaign costs. 

The initial data shows that only 5% of users have decided to allow Facebook to track them. Outside US, this number rises a bit but the majority of users have decided to opt-out from tracking.

But the lack of access to IDFA does not influence the way Voluum works. Voluum uses cookies, HTTP requests and scripts to gather information about visitor’s activity between websites. IDFA is used by mobile apps only, not by web pages. So, while there may be some changes in the whole advertising landscape (prices, ad relevance, and so on), tracking with Voluum is still safe.

Know that there are other tracking methods apart from IDFA that already have been adopted by other big players before the iOS 14.5. Google stated that it will not collect IDFA with its iOS apps, and therefore, it will not display the ATT prompt. 

Facebook advertising will still work with a workaround (Facebook has already published the SDK with the support for SKAdNetwork, an alternative attribution tracking solution proposed by Apple).

iOS 14.5 update release date

The iOS 14.5 was made publicly available on April 26th.

Summary

To sum up, here’s what’s important in a nutshell:

  1. If you’re not tracking app installs or upsells within apps, you’re not affected.
  2. If you are using Voluum to track app installs or upsells within apps, Voluum still works for you, but your partners (traffic source, affiliate network) may be somewhat affected.
  3. Even if your partners are affected, they most likely already took the right steps to proceed to safety before Apple rolls out the changes. That’s exactly what the wait until 14.5 was for.
  4. If you’re still not sure where you stand, feel free to chat with your traffic source / affiliate network customer support – they can clear it up for you.

The Internet did not break.

Voluum is still an awesome affiliate tracking software.

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