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Apple Kills the IDFA – Is This The Beginning of The End for Mobile Ad Tracking?


In a nod to the growing user privacy movement, Apple is planning to change the settings on its Identifier for Advertisers cookie (IDFA) to an opt-in model.  Apple announced the upcoming change at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on June 22nd.

What is an IDFA? 

It’s an Apple-branded cookie that does not expire. According to AppsFlyer: 

“As one of several types of device IDs, IDFA is one of the cookie replacements in mobile advertising, which has been continuously problematic for measuring in mobile mainly because it isn’t supported in apps and is disabled by default on Apple’s Safari browser. Since mobile ad networks and attribution providers are able to measure individual users along their install and app usage journey via the IDFA, this identifier is critical for the mobile attribution process.” 

What is Apple Changing in iOS 14?

Currently, users can opt out of being served personalized ads via their IDFA, and according to Singular, over 30% of users already choose to opt out. This doesn’t include desktop users using Safari, who are not given IDFA cookies. 

The iOS 14 update, expected mid-September, will instead warn users about the pervasiveness of IDFA trackers before prompted to opt in: 


With this type of stark warning for every user, advertisers predict that upwards of 80-90% of users could choose not to opt-into tracking post update — effectively killing the IDFA as a tool for tracking ad campaign effectiveness and conversions. 

Apple also offered up an alternative to IDFAs, via the Apple store kit, or SKAdNetwork. Once iOS 14 launches, SKAdNetwork 2.0 will launch as well, giving advertisers some additional source and conversion tracking capabilities.  

Is this the beginning of the end for targeted mobile ads? 

Advertisers sure seem to think so. After hearing of Apple’s announcement, iAB Europe drafted a four-point manifesto opposing the new changes on the grounds that the new pop up notification doesn’t meet the standards of the GDPR — the new industry standard for user privacy disclosures. Apple has not made any official comment on the iAB’s objection. 

According to mobile consultant Eric Seufert:

“This is Book of Revelation stuff. This is like a new era, new paradigm, rebuilding the entire tech stack that you have been operating with and hoping that you can sort of apply that to a similar looking strategy. This is a big deal. It’s like an earthquake, It’s a massive shakeup.”

Apocalyptic ad rhetoric aside, Facebook still uses User IDs, and Android still supports Android Ad Identifiers, so there are still options for digital marketers to follow mobile users’ behavior. But it seems that the killing of IDFA is a harbinger of tracking policy to come.