Privacy Changes Are Making Mobile Advertising More Complicated

It's time to look at what Apple and Google will do with apps

Some believe Apple and Google will offer an encrypted means of device mobile targeting.
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Key insights:

U.S. mobile advertising revenue is now worth $70 billion, according to IAB numbers. And the in-app mobile advertising economy–ads not served across the mobile web–is forecast to be worth $226 billion across the globe by 2025.

But a cloud hovers above the space because the industry’s major platform providers (with regulators peering over their shoulders) are growing increasingly preoccupied with privacy.

Last month, Google confirmed it would retire the use of cookies for ad targeting within its market-leading Chrome web browser by 2022–this followed almost a year of public speculation–in a decision that mirrors that of Apple and Mozilla with their respective Safari and Firefox web browsers. All of these major platform providers cite user privacy in their rationale for taking such decisions which inhibits the ability for advertisers to both target and measure the efficacy of their online media spend.

Many in the space now believe that in-app mobile advertising is set for the introduction of similar restraints. Principally, experts believe that mobile advertising IDs, often referred to as MAIDs, are set to be retired by the sector’s two major power brokers: Apple with its IDFA tool and Google with its Android equivalent AdID.

Location-tracking restrictions

Last year, Apple announced the introduction of a series of updates that inhibit app developers’ (and advertisers’) ability to track user iOS location, restricting any ad revenue they can generate.

The iPhone maker claimed it was “shutting the door on abuse” and last week, Google appeared to echo these sentiments with the announcement of planned policy updates to its Play store.

“Later this year, we will be updating Google Play policy to require that developers get approval if they want to access location data in the background,” Krish Vitaldevara, director of product management trust & safety, Google Play, wrote in a blog post.

As a result, starting in August, app developers will have to have any background location-tracking features approved by the Google Play team when they are submitting new apps to the outlet.

Law firm Hopkins Carley notes how these requests appear to line up with the California Consumer Privacy Act, which requires a “just-in-time” notice for data collection on mobile devices.

“Businesses and application developers that aggressively aim to collect additional data through broad permission requests will now need to disclose what categories of information are being collected, and thus may want to evaluate whether such aggressive collection is worth potentially alienating users,” reads an advisory note from partners at the firm.

The great MAID rollback?

Given the industry’s preoccupation with privacy (and the mood music trumpeting from the industry’s major players) there is now rampant debate as to whether or not Apple and Google will revoke their respective MAIDs, which some claim are more persistent identifiers than cookies.

The notion appears to be validated, as Facebook, a company that relies considerably on mobile app advertising, quietly updated its terms and conditions to state that it will no longer pass device IDs back to marketers.

One source, who requested anonymity given his/her organization’s ongoing negotiations with such platforms, told Adweek that Apple considered withdrawing IDFA last year, but execs opted to watch which privacy measures Google would introduce first.

Paul Gubbins, an ad tech consultant who specializes in mobile, explained to Adweek the potential impact such a move (from both Apple and Google) could have for both app developers and advertisers.

“As an app developer, you’re fundamentally reliant on that device ID,” he said, adding that the app ecosystem relies on a host of third parties such as mobile attribution providers.

A separate source from an app developer that is highly reliant on programmatic demand who requested anonymity due to his/her employer’s communication policy, predicted that both Apple and Google will pull support for MAIDs within the same timeframe as the Chrome browser pulling support for cookies.

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