Apple Is Delaying a Major Change to iOS 14. What It Means for Your Privacy

Apple Is Delaying a Major Change to iOS 14. What It Means for Your Privacy

Apple is expected to launch the official version of iOS 14 sometime in the next few weeks. It’ll likely come alongside the latest iPhone launch, which typically happens in September (though Apple has said they could come a few weeks later this year). When it does, one of the most significant changes will be missing. 

From Apple’s developer page:

On iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and tvOS 14, apps will be required to receive user permission to track users across apps or websites owned by other companies, or to access the device’s advertising identifier. We are committed to ensuring users can choose whether or not they allow an app to track them. 

To give developers time to make necessary changes, apps will be required to obtain permission to track users starting early next year. More information, including an update to the App Store Review Guidelines, will follow this fall.

That’s actually a substantial change.

Apple has always made a point of focusing on user privacy, and iOS 14 would reinforce that by requiring that apps actually display the option to “allow tracking,” or “ask app not to track.” 

Tracking is an important part of how apps and publishers target users with relevant ads. If you’re a fan of reading news or content online, without having to sign up for a subscription, those targeted ads are how that’s possible. Take them away and it creates a very real problem for publishers. 

You might argue that Apple is compromising its values, but I don’t think that’s fair. Apple doesn’t target users with ads, and it will still allow you to turn off the IDFA altogether. It’s just delaying the requirement that apps request permission every time they want to track. 

While it was Facebook that made the biggest stink about the privacy-focused feature, I don’t think Apple is delaying the rollout of opt-in tracking for the social media giant. On the contrary, Apple has regularly made a point of highlighting how different its own approach is from Facebook’s. It’s not likely that Apple would do Facebook any favors.

Instead, I think Apple legitimately understands that most users won’t opt-in, which means that a major source of generating revenue for those apps and publishers will suddenly be less attractive (and effective).

One of Apple’s values is also to deliver the best possible user experience, and a big part of that is the apps and services you’re able to access on your iPhone–in many cases, for no additional cost. 

It doesn’t benefit Apple–or anyone, for that matter–for those apps to simply go away. That’s exactly what would happen if they’re unable to support their apps with revenue. 

At the same time, users should absolutely have both transparency around how tracking is happening, and have the option to keep their information private. 

Apple’s move appears to be designed to give developers time to figure out what to do to reconcile those two issues. Considering all of the controversies around the App Store, I actually think this is a smart bit of developer relationship management. That’s not something that Apple has always been great at, but I think this is a step in the right direction and shows that the company recognizes that great apps–even when supported by ads–are a source of value to the overall iPhone platform.

Developers and publishers will still have to come with an alternative, but at least they now have a few months, instead of a few weeks. They’ll still have to make it clear that they want to track you for the purpose of showing you ads, but they’ll have time to make their case for just that, or come up with an alternative.

In the meantime, the delay is a sign that Apple recognizes it simply can’t afford to make everyone mad, at least not at the same time. 

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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