From Monday, iPhone users will have the choice, for each mobile application, between accepting or refusing to be tracked, thanks to an update from Apple potentially fraught with consequences for the advertising ecosystem on which reigns Facebook and Google.
Two models clash in Silicon Valley: the electronics giant sells its smartphones, tablets and computers at high prices, while its two neighbors offer free services, implicitly in exchange for data from Internet users, which are used to send them to them. ultra targeted ads on a very large scale.
This dominant economic model has long been criticized by civil society (associations, academics, etc.), and periodically challenged by laws (in Europe and California) or lesser-known companies.
But the apple brand, with its billion iPhones active in the world, has the capacity to shake up habits.
Since September, publishers of apps running iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system, can ask their users for permission to follow them as they navigate between various sites and applications to collect and use their data.
With the deployment of version 14.5 of iOS this week, this feature, known as ATT (App Tracking Transparency), becomes an obligation.
Concretely, a consent window is displayed when each app is opened. If a user clicks on “no” or if the window does not appear, for whatever reason, the application loses access to that person’s advertising identifier, a unique number that can be tracked online. .
“It fundamentally changes the way of measuring and targeting mobile advertising (…) currently based on what Apple calls” tracking “.
Many platforms and applications fear that consumers, faced with choice, will mostly decide to say no.
Facebook, in particular, does not take off.
The social media giant has embarked on a marketing offensive to defend personalized advertising, with full pages in American dailies, testimonials from small traders on an ad-hoc site and vitriolic statements from its founder, Mark Zuckerberg.
“Apple behaves in an anti-competitive manner”, assen the boss at the end of January, during a conference to analysts on the annual results of the group (29 billion dollars of net profit in 2020).
“Many SMEs will no longer be able to target their customers with personalized ads. Apple can say they are doing this to help people but it is clearly in their best interests, ”he continued.
But even if users decline tracking, the ads will still be personalized. Instagram will continue to infer likes based on browsing its own app, and show kibble ads to kitty lovers.
The apps will also use first-hand data, such as age or location. But they will no longer be able, potentially, to exchange them with third parties – whether it is a question of cross-checking or of selling them, in a more or less anonymized way.
“We give users the choice,” said Tim Cook, the boss of Apple, in an interview in early April to a New York Times podcast.
“If today you were to design an operating system from scratch, you would do it that way, that’s obvious.”
“From a consumer perspective, Apple is right. We need more transparency, ”comments Carolina Milanesi, Creative Strategies analyst.
“But it’s a bit hypocritical of Apple to tell consumers: + privacy is important, you are not our product.” Obviously, since their economic model is not based on advertising. “
Brands pay more for targeted and finely personalized ads, which therefore make websites and apps more money than ad space depending on context (ads for hotels next to travel articles, for example) .
Facebook therefore fears an impact on its income. In early February, Facebook said it would release its own information to users alongside that of the iPhone maker, on the consent window.
Developers of free applications, from video games to office automation, will be forced to adapt if they do not want to lose access to the particularly juicy market for iPhone or iPad users.
“They are generally better-off than average consumers, which makes them more lucrative targets,” recalls Carolina Milanesi.