In iOS 14, Apple shared a few more details about its much-discussed improvements to privacy. At WWDC in June, the company first revealed that software developers would have to ask users for permission for cross-property ad targeting purposes to track and share their IDFA identifier. Apple postponed the monitoring restrictions until 2021, saying it wanted to give developers more time to make the required improvements, while iOS 14 was released in the fall.

We have a slightly-more-specific timeline now. In early spring, the intention is to introduce these updates, with a version of the feature arriving in the next iOS 14 beta update.

“This is how the new system is described by Apple: “Users will be able to see under Settings which apps have requested permission to monitor and make changes as they see fit. With the forthcoming release of iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and tvOS 14, this requirement will roll out widely in early spring and has already gained support from privacy advocates around the world.

And here are the basics of what you need to know:

  • The App Tracking Transparency feature moves from the old method where you had to opt-out of sharing your Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) to an opt-in model. This means that every app will have to ask you upfront whether it is ok for them to share your IDFA with third parties including networks or data brokers.
  • The feature’s most prominent evidence is a notification on the launch of a new app that will explain what the tracker will be used for and ask you to opt-in to it.
  • You can now toggle IDFA sharing on a by-app basis at any time, where previously it was a single toggle. If you turn off the “Allow apps to request to track” setting altogether no apps can even ask you to use tracking.
  • Apple will enforce this for all third-party data sources including data sharing agreements, but of course, platforms can still use first-party data for advertising as per their terms of service.
  • Apple expects developers to understand whether APIs or SDKs that they use in their apps are serving user data up to brokers or other networks and to enable the notification if so.
  • Apple will abide by the rules for its own apps as well and will present the dialog and follow the ‘allow apps to request’ toggle if its apps use tracking (most do not at this point).
  • One important note here is that the Personalized Ads toggle is a separate setting that specifically allows or does not allow Apple itself to use its own first-party data to serve you ads. So that is an additional layer of opt-out that affects Apple data only.

Apple is now growing its Ad attribution API capabilities, enabling better click measurement, video conversion measurement, and also, for some instances, app-to-web conversions, and this is a major one.

This news comes on Data Privacy Day, with CEO Tim Cook speaking at the Computers, Privacy, and Data Protection conference in Brussels this morning about the problem. A recent study showing that the average app has six third-party trackers is also being shared by the company.

Although this seems like a welcome move from a privacy perspective, some criticism has been drawn from the advertising industry, with Facebook launching a PR campaign highlighting the effect on small businesses, while also referring to the shift as “one of the most important headwinds of advertising” it might face this year. The position of Apple is that it has a user-centric approach to data protection, rather than an advertiser-centric one.