App Tracking Framework in Apple: A Challenge for Marketing Agencies

App tracking feature UI

The App Tracking Transparency update has been a hot topic in the tech industry for a long time. The feature is integrated with the recent version of iOS 14.5. It requires consent from the users to enable tracking.

Tracking is of utmost importance in the digital marketing industry.  The common practice of marketing agencies harvesting and benefit from the collected users’ data for their own good has often been criticized. Being termed as a ‘curse for the mobile marketers’, this new feature serves well to address the growing privacy concerns of digital data.

What is App Tracking Feature?

Apple assigns a random device identifier, Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), to each device. As this ID is random and resettable does not contain PII (Personal Identifying Information)so, it does not violate any privacy rights.

IDFA contains data related to user in-app activities, interactions with the app, and installation history. The demographic information and purchasing habits derived from these data can then be used to create a user profile.

This profile can assist in drafting and launching programs to retarget an ad to a previous customer or send personalized ads to a specific customer based on his/her interests and behaviors.

Apple Regulations for App Tracking

As per the Apple Tracking Rules, developers now must display a prompt string stating the cause behind tracking user data. In addition, the application must request permission from users via the tracking framework. The string will typically be a pitch by the developers to get the consent of the users.

Plus, the developers need to include the data type details that will be tracked in the App Store.

The users can opt-out of tracking and still be able to use the app. Opting out sets all the identifier values to zero and no usable data from IDFA can be used by any third-party apps and data brokers.

App tracking request popup

Disable tracking requests universally

However, it is not the first time that the Apple has offered users to opt-out of tracking. In safari, under the Privacy settings in the Preferences tab, you can turn off the website tracking. But users seem less intrigued by this trick.


With the app tracking framework, the apps must request the user permission during the installation, explicitly stating the scope and purpose of the data tracking.

The app tracking request popups will appear every time you use or install an app. If the user wishes not to see these popups every time and disable the tracking requests permanently, they can simply set off “Allow Apps to Request to Track” under privacy settings.

Well, the transparency has contributed to bring back some control to the consumers regarding their data protection. But it seems like a downfall for the marketing companies that rely on ad revenue especially companies like Facebook and its associated apps.

Controversies surrounding the update

A debate has fueled up between Apple and Facebook on this matter. Facebook has claimed that the personalized ads have helped in the establishment of small companies globally. Tracking specifically helps to locate and reach potential customers. In contrast, Apple argues that consumers have the right to make choices about their data.

Nevertheless, the focus is now shifted to the Android users and web browsers that still allow tracking. The advertising campaigns will swarm these platforms undoubtedly. Let’s hope that the revolutionary step of Apple will inspire changes in Android and other platforms.