Data + Insights Local Marketing Activation Strategy

iOS17, Anti-Tracking, and You

As time goes on, privacy is becoming more and more of a priority for end-users on the web and with the rules and regulations that are starting to clamp down on the gathering of PII (Personally Identifiable Information), it’s not surprising that during the WWDC 2023 keynote speech in early June of this year, Apple mentioned briefly about its anti-tracking system that would release with iOS17, iPadOS17, and Mac OS Sonoma. The anti-tracking system was designed to remove link tracking tags automatically under the following scenarios:

  • Browsing in a private Safari tab/session (or turning on the privacy toggle)
  • Clicking links while within Mail 
  • Clicking links while within Messages 

Now, you might be asking:

  • What do the tags do in the first place? 
  • Why should I care? 

Marketing cares. 

They care a lot and when some of them heard this announcement, they might have panicked a bit. Historically speaking, click-through tags listed within links on advertising across all digital media has been utilized for a long while to gather information on the end-user (whether it be location demographics, specifics on the ad engaged with, etc.) to understand engagement and better market to them, in a more personalized manner. In the past, some of the data collected within the tags were PII and wasn’t something the user had an option to opt-in or out of…it just collected at will. As time has gone on, people have realized this was happening and with laws set into effect such as GDPR and some regulations stateside within CA and VA, more recently, user privacy and protection of their data is being enforced. This is a good thing and a win for user privacy, but depending on their setup, may complicate how advertisers leverage the collected information.

Which brings us back to the anti-tracking conversation at hand and iOS17… 

While advertisers may have initially panicked a bit, this is not something necessarily new, nor is it as sweeping as one would have initially surmised. It’s not new as Apple, amongst others, has been slowly attempting to get a better regulation on click-tracking and governance since they’d introduced it with iOS14.5’s App Tracking Transparency option. The changes within iOS17 are not as all-or-nothing either and still leave some wiggle room for tracking, at this juncture. First and foremost, with iOS17, Apple will additionally be introducing a sort of compromise for advertisers in the form of a more general Private Click Measurement (PCM) value. This will eliminate sending PII while still providing for some usage data to avoid leaving Marketing in the dark. Additionally, the anti-tracking measures Apple is introducing isn’t quite as all-or-nothing as it may initially sound.

WttW did a pretty good test-run just to see the results of the parameters in the link were being stripped and what wasn’t. The results were that Apple is only removing or stripping parameters or additional information on URLs that could be personally identifiable for cross-website tracking; it isn’t removing/stripping all supplemental information within a URL. For the most part, tag parameters on the list over at were all that was stripped out, which is more of a direct hit to large-scale marketing and the social media attribution PII sharing marketplace. It’s not a hit against ESPs (email service providers) or email marketing. Another detailed test that gave a clear understanding of what presently was going on in the beta release was one that Peter Jakuš over at performed, which I’d recommend also giving a look. Keep in mind, with any of these tests, they are all based on the beta version, which potentially could change prior to its official September release.

Marketing advertising may be able to breathe a slight sigh of relief; however, they should not ignore these early adopters that are deepening privacy governance on the web. Digital marketers need a game plan for things to come, as it’s only a matter of time, and things are only going to get harder from here out. As more of these changes go into effect, advertising costs may begin to rise due to new complexities.

Ansira’s message to marketers out here is simply this: Don’t Panic.

Digital marketing needs to embrace these changes and not fight them, rather pivot. Learn to own your first-party data and adopt/create other measurement opportunities. Set the stage to collect your customer data early within whatever touchpoint you are introduced within – make it valuable to your customer to lend you their information with incentives.

RIP deterministic attribution.

Say hello to things such as:

  • First-Party Tracking Identifiers (if you have consent, mind you!)
  • Consider migrating to Persona-Based Targeting, as opposed to the ID-based advertising
  • Customer Feedback Surveys
  • Marketing Mix Tracking
  • Other Probabilistic Attribution Options

With iOS17 looming to have full release in September 2023, this grants marketers time to set a game plan to pivot around those changes, but also set a good foundation for things to come to better, more surgically, advertise in this new privacy-concerned environment.

By Jenni Kirkruff

As an award-winning, innovative Senior Director, Marketing Technology Strategy at Ansira, Jenni has over 20 years of experience in leading digital strategy, marketing technology, web/mobile app development, and user experience for a variety of industries. She is the bridge between IT and Marketing that grants her a rare strength to empower our clients through technology with their marketing needs - not only for today, but also tomorrow. She absolutely loves this space and how it is constantly evolving.