OK, iPhone owners, it’s decision time.
This week, Apple will release updates to its device operating systems that will require apps to ask for permission to track your activity online.
Once you update to iOS 14.5 on your iPhone – or update your iPadOS – and you launch apps such as Facebook, you are likely to get some prompts asking whether you want to let the apps track you across other companies’ apps and websites.
This has been a sore spot for Facebook, as less access to such data could crimp its U.S. digital advertising business, estimated by eMarketer to be about $40 billion. Consumers should appreciate the tracking because it helps Facebook deliver better, targeted advertisements, the company says. Apple CEO Tim Cook has said data collection is excessive and could be exploited.
Apple said during its “Spring Loaded” event last week, the iOS 14.5 update and the iPadOS 14 update would arrive sometime this week. The update includes “App Tracking Transparency” requiring any app tracking your activity across other companies’ apps and web sites to notify you. At that point, the prompt will let you allow tracking to continue or opt out.
“The way it is going to work is that users have to ‘opt in’ to what Facebook wants,” said Patrick Moorhead, founder and president of Moor Insights & Strategy.
Consumers who opt-out of tracking will likely see fewer relevant ads and Facebook could see U.S. advertising revenue decline as much as $3 billion annually, he said.
In its prompt, Facebook plans to ask users to allow tracking to continue. “Personalized ads are an important way people discover small businesses on Facebook and Instagram, and how these ads help small businesses grow from an idea into a livelihood,” Facebook said in a post in late February.
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iPhone users currently can go into settings to prevent cross-site tracking. But this new requirement in the update will give consumers even more control over their data, Apple says. They can also change their settings after making an initial decision to opt in or out by going to Settings > Privacy > Tracking, according to Apple.
Apple originally planned to released the anti-tracking feature last September, but delayed it to give ad-dependent “free” apps time to adjust to the changes. Facebook spent part of the delay blasting Apple for a change that it says could make it difficult for smaller apps to survive without charging consumers. At the same time, Facebook has acknowledged to investors that its own ad revenue could also be hurt.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.