Three Things to Monitor in the Data Tracking Debate (IOS14.5 Update)

On April 26, Apple announced the availability of iOS 14.5. If you’re an iOS user, you likey have already downloaded this new version and have been using it for a while. Among a number of other updates including support for Apple’s new AirTags, different Siri voices, and the ability to unlock your iPhone with your Apple Watch, the App Tracking Transparency update has dominated the headlines and sent shockwaves through the already important discussion regarding data privacy. While the data is still fresh, early statistics shown from a poll conducted by Flurry, a well-respected mobile app analytics company, show that of the people who are presented with the prompt to allow or deny app tracking, only 26% of users are choosing to allow app tracking. These numbers suggest that users are tired of having their data collected and sold to advertisers, and that more users are becoming aware of just how many apps they use that are tracking their information. While the fallout of this new update has yet to be fully realized, here are three things we think you should monitor as the discussion continues. 

  1. Popular social media platforms may become paid services

There’s a saying that was generated back in 2019 that has recently made its rounds in The Social Dilemma and is a staple of the data privacy debate, “If something is free, then you are the product.” When we look at products such as YouTube and Spotify, it is clear how they make their money; offer a free product with ads, then offer a “premium” product that removes the ads for a monthly subscription fee. With products like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, the profit model is less apparent. When using either of those platforms, you are sharing information with the company, who then sells this information to advertisers to help them generate ads that are more targeted towards you and other people like you. This is how these platforms are able to stay “free” and not charge users a monthly fee. With iOS 14.5, this could change. Now that users have the ability to restrict the data they share with companies, a huge part of the profit model is now gone, which suggests that some social media companies will need to turn to other methods for generating revenue, namely, “premium” memberships. Keep an eye out for any news regarding this shift; it’s sure to be a big deal. 

  1. How will Google respond?

Google operates the other side of the smartphone world with their Android OS, yet also runs the largest search engine in the world. Will Google announce a similar data restriction policy for Android phones? Or does this present something of a conflict of interest with their search engine and it’s reliance upon tracking user data? Google has announced a number of new guidelines that app developers must meet in order to upload apps to the Google Play Store, including the requirement to state what information the application is tracking, but early reports show no immediate intention to limit ad tracking. Keep an eye out for an official announcement from Google and the resulting backlash, if any. 

  1. Will the government get involved? 

Many journalists and analysts have called for government intervention when it comes to data tracking and what should and should not be permissible. While President Biden has spent much of his early presidency focused on COVID relief, the availability of the vaccine and reopening of the country suggests that his attention will soon turn to other pressing issues within the country. While no official word has come from his team regarding a plan to address this issue, Biden’s White House Deputy Chief of Staff, Bruce Reed, has experience in this discussion. He helped negotiate with legislators and members of the tech industry to pass a privacy law in California in 2018. With support on both sides of the aisle, there is reason to believe that data privacy could become a key issue in American politics in the not too distant future. 

These are just a handful of items to keep track of following the release of iOS 14.5. If you have any other questions about what the update means for you or your business, reach out to us at info@bloommedia.us and we’d be happy to chat!

Polling Data: https://www.flurry.com/blog/ios-14-5-opt-in-rate-idfa-app-tracking-transparency-weekly/

Android Announcement: https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/05/18/google-io-ad-tracking-2021/

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