Apple consumers are a dedicated bunch, but how do they feel about advertisers tracking their every move while using their beloved iPhones and iPads?
Although Apple allows users to limit ad tracking within its new operating system, iOS 6 — here's an easy how-to — we still don't know a lot about what advertisers can see and do with the new Identifier for Advertisers (IFA or IDFA)
Here's a guide to everything that's currently known about IFA.
Bye Bye UDID
Prior to iOS 6, Apple products used Unique Device Identifiers (UDID) to allow advertisers to track users' habits and preferences. Basically, apps would sell UDIDs to advertisers.
UDID was reliant on the actual hardware, which means that it was always attached to a certain device and couldn't be limited, changed, or reset.
With UDID basically frowned upon by Apple, there was a period of months in which tracking mostly stopped on the iPhone and iPad. Then Apple introduced IFA with the iOS6.
According to Apple:
Unlike UDIDs, IFA is located in a device's settings rather than in the hardware.
An IFA is a random, non-permanent, and anonymous number (meaning users aren't personally identified) that can be reset or even turned off — although its default is to be on. It's kind of like a cookie.
While IFA appears less intrusive than the UDID, it also appears to track more habits than before. Decrypted Tech writes, "IFA can track you all the way through to purchase or app download giving advertisers more ammunition to fine tune their ads and targeting algorithms."
According to MoPub, an ad server for mobile apps, IFA will have a positive effect on publishers' revenues.
Mobile publisher Apsalar makes the point that IFA is better for advertisers by using the example of someone selling his or her phone to someone else. "With the old UDID model, the UDID would stay constant and the new phone owner’s profile data would get mixed in with the former owner’s data. With the new IDFA, if the original user resets his new phone, he will get a new IDFA and his profile will stay constant without any cross-contamination of profiles."
Potential problems with "limiting" ad tracking:
Most people won't even know that they have to take action in order to disable tracking. Mobile Theory CEO Scott Swanson told us, "The biggest thing we're excited about is that it's on by default, so we expect most people will leave it on."
Even if users take the time to limit tracking (learn how here), their identifiers will still be sent to advertisers. The information, however, is flagged and advertisers should respect users' wishes.
Apple's disclaimer (pictured above) says it all: right now advertisers only might not use your information if you limit tracking because "you may still receive targeted ads." Later, all apps will be required to use IFA.
There's still a lot to learn about Apple's tracking policies. We will keep you updated as more information arises.