Just 13% of iOS users opt into being tracked by third-party apps

The iPhone 12 in blue on a pink background

Only a fraction of iOS users have agreed to be tracked by third-party applications such as Facebook since Apple released its App Tracking Transparency (ATT) tool with iOS 14.5 a fortnight ago.

Just 13% of users worldwide have granted permission for tracking by any apps, according to data compiled by Flurry, with 5% of users setting themselves to ‘restricted’, meaning apps won’t even be able to ask them to opt-in.

It confirms the expectations that the rollout of ATT would result in a vast swathe of users choosing not to be tracked.

“With opt-in rates expected to be low, this change is expected to create challenges for personalized advertising and attribution, impacting the $189 billion mobile advertising industry worldwide,” said Flurry analyst, Estelle Laziuk.

Before iOS 14.5, iPhone apps would rely on Apple’s Identifier for Advertising (IDFA), to track and target users for marketing purposes.

ATT was introduced with iOS 14.5 as a means for users to be told explicitly what data will be collected, and which apps would be tracking them as part of IDFA. Apps also have to ask for users’ permission up-front, in the form of an opt-in, before being able to track them.

Facebook led a chorus of voices railing against the rollout of ATT, fearing the expected drop-off in users being tracked would have a negative impact on its revenues, and the revenues of its partners.

The social media network has publicly campaigned against ATT, forcing Apple to delay the move several times in order for developers and companies to prepare for the changes. It was supposed to be introduced during 2020 with iOS 14.5, but was pushed back and eventually came with iOS 14.5 two weeks ago.

While the main opponent of ATT is Facebook, the firm also argues that many of its smaller partners will be hit by the move due to the expected revenues losses incurred. Heather Federman, VP of privacy and policy at BigID, a data management firm, agreed upon the launch that it could massively impact SMBs.

“While this may hurt Facebook's third-party advertising programs," she said, "it's core services like Facebook and Instagram will be fine. Facebook has large quantities of first-party data compared to most other marketers and networks, so their first-party platforms will become more valuable than ever. As for other marketers, they will need to consider contextual based advertising or other alternative solutions to make sure they're reaching their audiences.”


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“Apple has already been sending warnings to developers against workaround methods like ‘probabilistic matching’ and ‘device fingerprinting’ or even ‘bluetooth beacon tracking’ - prior to the official update. I don't see that stopping marketers and developers from developing methods. As the saying goes, it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.”

Google, last week, also suggested that by 2022, it would introduce a similar tool in its Android platform, asking users to consent to be tracked rather than being tracked by third-party apps by default.

Keumars Afifi-Sabet

Keumars Afifi-Sabet is a writer and editor that specialises in public sector, cyber security, and cloud computing. He first joined ITPro as a staff writer in April 2018 and eventually became its Features Editor. Although a regular contributor to other tech sites in the past, these days you will find Keumars on LiveScience, where he runs its Technology section.