In the next few weeks, Apple will introduce a change to the iOS mobile operating system which powers millions of iPhones and iPads. It will force app developers to give users a choice over whether they want to be tracked when they leave the app and roam across the internet.
Meanwhile Google has said it’s banishing the third-party cookies used to keep tabs on an individual’s web journeys from both its advertising networks and its Chrome browser.
“It’s going to cause a major shock to the system,” Lara O’Reilly, from the Insider news site, tells Tech Tent. She explains that third party cookies, or Apple’s Identifier for advertisers, aren’t just about pestering you with that shoes advert.
“They’re also used by advertisers for things like measurement. So working out if you saw an ad on one website, and then you actually went to that shop to buy the jacket.”
And this kind of tracking is important – not just for the likes of Facebook, but for any business trying to live off advertising.
“If you’re somebody that owns an app, or you own a website, you can fetch far higher prices for your ads if you know more about your users, because you can match it more to that advertiser’s needs.”
Apple, whose business model does not depend on advertising, is painting its move as just the latest in a series of initiatives to protect the privacy of its customers.
In promoting the tracking “opt-in” policy, it has been using a 2010 quote from its founder Steve Jobs.
He said: “I believe people are smart and some people want to share more data than other people do. Ask them. Ask them every time. Make them tell you to stop asking them if they get tired of your asking them. Let them know precisely what you’re going to do with their data.”
An oversold promise?
But advertisers seem convinced that if people are asked whether they want to be tracked, the majority will say no.
Some are trying to find ways around the system – there are reports that Chinese tech firms have come up with a tool that will give them an alternative to Apple’s Identifier.
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