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Apple and Google are set to introduce new privacy changes this month. With the release of iOS 17, Apple will automatically remove link trackers from URLs sent via Message and Mail, as well as from links in Safari Private Browsing. Google, on the other hand, is rolling out new APIs to Chrome and initiating an 18-month roadmap for Privacy Sandbox.

These changes, aimed at enhancing user privacy and making it harder to identify individual users, may impact campaign analytics and raise concerns for marketers. The removal of URL parameters could affect ad measurement, embedded media, social widgets, fraud prevention, bot detection, audience measurement, and funding websites reliant on targeted or personalized ads.

The full extent of the impact on advertising is yet to be seen, but the industry is closely monitoring these updates. While Apple provides alternative tools like private click measurement, their complexity and adoption remain uncertain.

Apple’s Changes to iOS 17

Apple’s iOS 17 update introduces Link Tracking Protection. This feature automatically removes user-identifiable tracking parameters from URLs in Mail, Messages, and Safari’s Private Browsing mode. This shake-up has implications for businesses reliant on URL parameters for personalized ads and tracking user activity. The feature disrupts advertisers’ ability to track user interactions, marking a significant advancement in mobile device privacy. For years, tracking parameters have allowed advertisers to create user profiles, deliver targeted ads, and measure marketing campaign effectiveness. The introduction of Link Tracking Protection is set to reshape the advertising landscape.

However, Apple offers an alternative called Private Click Measurement, allowing advertisers to track ad campaign conversions while preserving user privacy. This update prompts businesses to reconsider their marketing and tracking strategies, presenting challenges and potential workarounds.

While marketers will make use of the new ad attribution feature, Private Click Measurement, businesses must consider other methods for measuring campaign success. With the limitations imposed by iOS 17, businesses should explore alternative methods for targeting ads to specific users. This can include focusing on demographics or interests as targeting criteria. Collecting first-party data directly from users, through channels like surveys or email sign-ups, becomes more crucial in the absence of extensive tracking capabilities. This data can help inform marketing strategies and personalize user experiences.

Although the number of users affected by these changes may not be significant, it underscores the challenges of user-centric measurement beyond existing customers or owned first-party data. As only a portion of U.S. consumers use Safari, and a smaller percentage engage in private browsing, marketers will need to consider the long-term sustainability of their measurement strategies.

Google’s Changes to Chrome

In the first quarter of 2024, Google is disabling third-party cookies in Chrome. Before that, developers will have a chance to preview operating without third-party cookies. Starting with the next version of Chrome in July, developers can test Google’s Privacy Sandbox APIs, including the Topics API, which will replace third-party cookies for interest-based advertising.

Privacy Sandbox consists of five APIs for ad targeting, measurement, and fraud prevention. Advertisers can use these APIs to obtain aggregated data on conversions and attribution. This offers an alternative approach, utilizing anonymized signals within a user’s Chrome browser to leverage browsing habits for advertising purposes.

Google also wants general feedback about each of the proposed APIs. The end goal for this entire process is to turn the APIs into open web standards that theoretically could be adopted by vendors of other browsers like Safari and Mozilla. Thus far, the standards organization World Wide Web Consortium has been involved in the development of the Privacy Sandbox, leading some industry players to believe it could pave the way for the five APIs becoming consistent across all browsers.

The Fluctuating Digital Landscape

Over the past decade, digital privacy has undergone significant changes driven by technological advancements, evolving consumer expectations, and increased regulatory scrutiny.

Heightened Awareness and Concerns

With high-profile data breaches and privacy scandals, such as the Cambridge Analytica incident, consumers have become more aware of the importance of their digital privacy. This heightened awareness has led to increased concerns about how their personal information is collected, used, and shared in the advertising ecosystem.

Stricter Privacy Regulations

The introduction of comprehensive privacy regulations, such as the GDPR in Europe and the CCPA in California, has had a profound impact on digital advertising. These regulations have set higher standards for data collection, consent, and user rights, requiring businesses to be more transparent and accountable in their data practices.

User Empowerment and Control

Users now have more control over their privacy settings and the ability to opt-out of targeted advertising. Web browsers have introduced features like enhanced cookie controls and built-in privacy tools to empower users to manage their online privacy and limit tracking.

Shift to Consent-based Advertising

Obtaining user consent has become a fundamental requirement for data collection and targeted advertising. Advertisers now need to obtain explicit consent from users before collecting and using their personal data, and they must provide clear information about how data will be used.

Privacy-enhancing Technologies

Advances in privacy-enhancing technologies, such as differential privacy, federated learning, and secure multiparty computation, have emerged to protect user privacy while enabling data analysis and ad targeting. These technologies allow advertisers to derive insights from data without directly accessing personally identifiable information.

Increased Focus on Data Security

Advertisers have become more vigilant about data security, implementing robust measures to protect user data from breaches and unauthorized access. Encryption, secure data storage, and regular security audits have become standard practices to safeguard sensitive information.

Privacy by Design

Privacy considerations are now embedded in the design and development of advertising technologies and platforms. Privacy by Design principles encourage companies to proactively address privacy throughout the entire product lifecycle, ensuring privacy protections are built into the core architecture.

Growing Demand for Ethical Advertising

Consumers are increasingly favoring brands that prioritize ethical advertising practices and respect user privacy. Advertisers are recognizing the value of transparent and privacy-conscious approaches as a way to build trust and foster long-term relationships with their audience.

The last 10 years have witnessed a significant shift towards stronger privacy protections and user empowerment in digital advertising. Stricter regulations, user-centric consent mechanisms, enhanced privacy technologies, and a growing emphasis on ethical practices have reshaped the landscape, placing digital privacy at the forefront of advertising strategies.

The Impact on Advertisers

Privacy-preserving strategies enable a new approach to advertising that prioritizes user privacy. Instead of tracking individuals across the web, browsers can share anonymous topic information from recently visited sites without identifying individuals. Data can be stored locally on users’ devices to maintain privacy, rather than being collected by companies. Additionally, measures can be taken to ensure anonymity when measuring ad responses. While the transition may seem complex, Google, Apple, and other ad tech companies will handle the technical aspects, allowing businesses to continue buying and selling ads on familiar platforms while embracing privacy-focused technologies.

Adapting to the changes brought by Chrome and iOS 17’s privacy features may present challenges for digital marketers. However, it also presents an opportunity to refine targeting, measurement, and data collection practices. By staying proactive and adjusting their strategies, businesses can navigate these changes and thrive in the evolving digital landscape. Contact the team of specialists at Swell Marketing Agency to get assistance tailored to your specific business needs.