Apple delays iOS privacy change that critics say will disrupt ad market

Apple says it wants to give developers time to make necessary changes and that the privacy tweak will kick in early next year.

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Originally hailing from Troy, Ohio, Ry Crist is a writer, a text-based adventure connoisseur, a lover of terrible movies and an enthusiastic yet mediocre cook. A CNET editor since 2013, Ry's beats include smart home tech, lighting, appliances, broadband and home networking.
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Ry Crist
2 min read

A change that would require app developers to seek permission before tracking your iOS device ID is on pause till 2021.

Angela Lang/CNET

Apple is delaying plans to require iOS developers to request permission from app users before collecting their unique device ID for the purposes of ad tracking, the company said Thursday.

"When enabled, a system prompt will give users the ability to allow or reject that tracking on an app-by-app basis," Apple told CNET. "We want to give developers the time they need to make the necessary changes, and as a result, the requirement to use this tracking permission will go into effect early next year."

First announced at WWDC in June, the new requirement was set to replace the current opt-out model, where developers are free to track user device IDs unless a user chooses to opt out. Changing to an opt-in model was pitched as a step in the right direction for user privacy.

"All of our product work is grounded in a set of privacy principles," Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, said when the move was announced.

The change didn't go over well with some of the platform's largest publishers, most of whom rely heavily on ad tracking to generate revenue. Most notable among the critics was Facebook, which pointed out that the privacy update would make ad tracking a less effective means of making money.

Read more: Best iPhone apps of 2020

"For developers and publishers using Audience Network, our ability to deliver targeted ads on iOS 14 will be limited," the company wrote in an August blog post. "As a result, some iOS 14 users may not see any ads from Audience Network, while others may still see ads from us, but they'll be less relevant."

Now Apple's change won't come until 2021, giving developers more time to adjust their business models.

Positioning itself as a company that values user privacy has been a priority for Apple in recent years, mirroring the rising concerns among consumers about data security and privacy practices among the tech giants. In 2019, Apple displayed a prominent billboard focused on privacy at the CES tech showcase in Las Vegas. In 2020 the company's privacy chief spoke on a CES panel about how Apple protects customer data.

"We believe technology should protect users' fundamental right to privacy, and that means giving users tools to understand which apps and websites may be sharing their data with other companies for advertising or advertising measurement purposes, as well as the tools to revoke permission for this tracking," Apple said.