Every Apple device has an Advertiser Identification Code (IDFA) that advertisers use to track you. This is how they follow you from app to app and roam the web. Apple was planning to ask advertisers for permission to use the feature in iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and tvOS 14, but now says that will delay the requirement.
When you watch an Instagram video and see an ad for a product, you can tap it to learn more. When you are playing a game and you see an ad for another game, you can tap it to download the suggestion. That’s the goal of ads, but advertisers need to know when they’ve been successful.
To this end, Apple has implemented IDFA codes that allow advertisers to identify your device but not you. It’s a balancing act between tracking and anonymity. Companies like Facebook rely on the IDFA code for a large portion of their mobile ad revenue.
Apple previously announced that starting with iOS 14, developers of apps and games with advertisements should display a prompt asking for permission to provide your IDFA code to advertisers. Understandably, the developers (who rely on ad revenue) weren’t happy, and Facebook complained loudly.
Apparently those complaints have worked, at least for now. Apple said in an update that it would delay plans to require clearance. However, the company still plans to implement the privacy feature and says it is giving developers time to implement the change. As noted in a developer update:
We’re committed to ensuring that users can choose whether or not to allow an app to track them. To give developers time to make the necessary changes, apps will need to get permission to track users starting early next year.
So while developers can implement the new request dialog when iOS drops if they want, they don’t have to until 2021. It seems to work in the balance of giving advertising and giving away developers a chance to adjust while letting Apple tout its “focus on privacy” to users.