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What is the iOS IDFA?

Last Updated: January 11, 2021

The iOS Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) is a unique identifier that Apple assigns to each mobile device for third parties to target and measure the effectiveness of advertising. It’s like a tracking ID in a mobile phone instead of a browser cookie.

During Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) in June 2020, Apple announced it would embed this new opt-in system for tracking users called IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers).  The new iOS 14 feature prompts users with a pop-up, asking if they want to allow personal tracking for advertising purposes.

The data collected can then be used to discover information about the user’s behavior such as when users interact with a mobile advertising campaign and whether they click the advertisement.  IDFAs are important because they’re an accurate way to track iOS users.  By assigning a single device to a single IDFA, advertisers are able to track IDFAs within their campaigns to gain more information about the demographics and behaviors of that user in order to better target adverts.

 

What Has Apple’s iOS IDFA Changed?

Previously, consumers had to actively opt-out of sharing their IDFA with advertisers. Now they have the ability to choose to block the sharing of their unique identifier at the app level. Similar to the example below.

iOS IDFA App Message

This popup notification is similar to Apple’s previous update which informed users that an app was tracking their location. They gave users the choice to “always allow”, “limit its use”, or “deny access”. Additionally, users of ios 14 will have a dashboard for “App Privacy” to see what permission their apps have access to.

iOS IDFA

 

How Will Advertisers Be Impacted By iOS 14 IDFA?

Currently, many major platforms (like Facebook, Google, Snapchat, etc.) are still working out the details on how to adapt to these major changes. Apple has suggested its SKAdNetwork as an alternative option for privacy-friendly ad measurement and attribution. The intention is to provide conversion data to advertisers without revealing any user-level or device-level data. However, the SKAdNetwork currently has low adoption levels from ad networks.

Advertisers will be impacted in two main ways:

  • Ad Retargeting. Any user who has opted-out of sharing their IDFA can no longer be retargeted, based on device-level targeting. Many platforms still have other tools they can use to identify devices, such as email or phone number. But other smaller platforms that don’t have the ability or resources to access those tools and information, will likely see a decline in targetable audiences.
  • Ad Measurement. MMPs, Mobile Measurement Partners, have built measurement and fraud capabilities around the IDFA identifier. While Apple’s replacement API, SKAdNetowrk, will allow conversion data to be shared back at the campaign level, it’s likely there will still be a reduction in data that MPPs collect. Impeding their ability to identify fraud and performance across mobile campaigns.

 

How to Enable IDFA on my iPhone?

From the home screen on your iPhone:

  1. Navigate to Settings > Privacy (if unavailable, swipe left to access the App Library)
  2. Tap Apple Advertising
  3. Switch Personalized Ads to turn on or off

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