March 31, 2021
iOS, Facebook Ads, and Privacy
as we know them are about to change.
because of some new privacy settings in an iOS 14 update.
touting this change as new privacy protections for its users, while Facebook is
bemoaning the impact these new “restrictions” will have on small businesses.
really going on and what do we think is going to happen? Read on.
ads currently track you
2021, Facebook reported having an average of 1.84 billion daily active users (a 12% year-over-year increase). Once we’re logged
in, cookies track all sorts of on- and off-Facebook activities. But it doesn’t
websites offer the ability to “log in with your Facebook account.” And though
this seems like only a convenience to the user, it also provides the website
and Facebook with even more trackable information.
that information to deliver ads that its algorithms think will be useful to the
user. Because if the ads are useful, they will be clicked on and (hopefully)
convert to sales. This justifies the ad spend and makes the company purchasing
the Facebook ads buy more. And on and on. The circle of marketing life: it
moves us all.
What iOS 14
is going to do
Much like how websites
everywhere rushed to become GDPR compliant in
2018, Apple is moving iOS to an opt-in state regarding user privacy. Apps now must specify
in advance what data they will collect and how they will use and track that
That’s before the app is downloaded. After it’s downloaded, express opt-in permission must be given before iOS will allow the app to track the user. That’s right: you’ll have to agree to be tracked for each app that wants to track you.
How iOS 14
This is a big
concern for data-hungry Facebook because of how ubiquitous iOS is. Here are
some quick stats and rough mathematics:
- 81% of Facebook users are on a mobile device. That’s approximately 1.49 billion
- 27.47% of Facebook users are on an iOS device (as of January 2021). That’s a little
over 409 million daily users.
- As of the writing of this piece, 80% of iOS devices
are using iOS 14. That would be an estimated 327 million daily users.
So, this iOS privacy update will impact (again, roughly) 327–409 million daily Facebook users. That’s a lot of users, especially when you consider mobile users are the ones most targeted by location-based marketing, and often by local, smaller businesses. So, losing even some of these users really will, as Facebook claims, negatively affect small business owners.
What this means for the
future of Facebook advertising
Facebook will continue to try
and convince iOS users that opting in will provide them with “a better ads
experience.” And this tactic will probably work for a large number of users. Formation’s
Brand Loyalty 2020 (info required) report found that “81% of consumers are
willing to share basic personal information for a more personalized
experience.” We share when we get stuff in return.
But it does have the possibility
of making our Facebook ads less effective, in that we won’t be able to target
the recipients as finely. Our ad spends might increase to cover a more-broad
group (where we hope to hit our intended targets), or stay the same but have
There’s also the chance that very little will change. As users, we’ve been conditioned to just accept and not read or consider long Terms & Conditions for various hardware and software. Many might click whatever button lets Facebook continue to track them across other apps and websites out of habit.
Also, as Forbes points out, Facebook already has a very large pool of data about all its
users that isn’t going anywhere. Plus, Apples new privacy restrictions will,
even if a user opts out, still let Facebook track one metric. Using that one metric
and all of its historical aggregated data, Facebook plans to use statistical
modeling to extrapolate new ways to personalize and target the ad experience.
What we will have to do is consciously and closely monitor our Facebook ads even more than normal: make sure our ads are giving us enough ROI without exhausting our resources. Apple and Facebook are playing a game right now with privacy, as both companies look to protect the sources of their income. Apple makes its money from hardware and app sales, while Facebook makes its cash from ad sales.
And with Lina Kahn being a reported
nominee to the Federal Trade Commission, both Apple and Facebook soon have
other problems to worry about. Khan is a Columbia University associate
professor and legal scholar, whose “Amazon’s
Antitrust Paradox” paper (written while still a student!) rocked the world
of antitrust law. She’s already assisted the House with previous anti-trust
probes into tech platforms, and would most likely continue to examine Apple,
Facebook, Google, and the like to see if new regulations should be imposed. In
short, her future work could change the entire landscape.
We do know this for a fact:
marketing will never go away. It’s been around for thousands of years (with
“made by” seals being a big business in 2200
BCE in the Indus valley) and is an important part in commerce. But commerce
is about trade and, as already stated, many users are okay with trading some
information for a better online experience—even if that experience involves
more personalized ads.
Will online and Facebook
advertising change in the near future? Most probably, at least somewhat. But to
be fair, they are always changing. New platforms spring up, old ones tweak
their policies, and marketers adapt. It’s what we do: all in the pursuit to
make sure our clients’ tasty messages reach their hungry audiences.