Digital Transformation

What we’re learning from Apple’s App Tracking Transparency move: Trust is your competitive advantage

Apple's App Tracking Transparency trust

As of Apple’s April 26th launch of iOS 14.5, apps must start using the company’s new App Tracking Transparency framework. As Brenton House recently explained, this change centers around access to the Identifier for Advertisers or IDFA. The IDFA is an ID that allows apps and APIs to uniquely identify a user across multiple apps and websites.

Most commonly used by advertisers, this ID keeps track of who you are and, when combined with additional information collected across the internet and other apps, gives a very detailed profile about a user without them ever knowing — until now, at least. Apple will now require apps to prompt users for permission to track their activity and data.

Apple’s App Tracking Transparency move

Depending on who you ask, this change is either a win for consumer privacy or a blow to advertisers. And what’s clear is that it has the potential to be quite disruptive to app and API developers as they adjust.

The IDFA isn’t just used for advertising, it can also serve for fraud detection, and if any third-party APIs rely on the IDFA for any reason and the end-user denies access, your customer is at risk of losing app functionality.

At Axway, our customers depend on the Amplify API Management Platform to power their apps and APIs around the world. How do consumers generally feel about Apple’s new requirements? And how likely are they to opt into tracking? We asked them.

The results are in: Consumers approve of Apple’s new privacy feature

In a recent consumer survey Axway commissioned, people were overwhelmingly supportive of having more control over who sees their personal data, and they want to better understand who’s accessing it at any moment.

We surveyed 1,017 American adults who spanned a representative age, gender, and demographic range.

76% percent of respondents said mobile apps should have to tell you when and how they are tracking their activity and preferences across different apps and websites. And 80% said they should have to get their permission to do so.

When it came to how advertisers are watching consumer behavior, Americans seemed most concerned with browser history (53%), followed closely by location tracking (51%). They were also worried about advertisers’ use of ad tracking (38%), past purchases (38%), and in-app settings and permissions (36%). Finally, about a third were worried virtual assistants (like Alexa or Siri) were listening in on them for tracking purposes (32%).

Clearly, there isn’t a great deal of trust here, and these results seem to show people aren’t clear on what parts of their data are being used, and how. They want to know if it is being used, and they want to be able to opt out.

Control over when, what, and how makes a difference

Interestingly, though, people are somewhat willing to give apps and advertisers access to track their activity and preferences: but the key is knowing when and how it’s being done.

Our survey results give a mixed picture of how Apple’s App Tracking Transparency is likely to roll out, with consumers split on whether they’ll allow apps to track them. This could make things tricky for advertisers and force some to rethink their business models.

39% of respondents said they would give their permission to let mobile apps and advertisers track their activity and preferences across different apps and websites, but 39% also said they wouldn’t, with another 22% who were unsure.

If they are allowed to opt out at any time, however, those who would give permission to track jump to 52%.

Clearly, trust is important. People still want to feel in control of their data, and they might be persuaded to allow advertisers access if there’s a foundation of trust and they retain control of their data.

And Apple’s move is likely to have a ripple effect through the industry: nearly three-quarters of Americans surveyed believe other operating systems should follow suit and block advertisers from tracking your activity and preferences across different applications if the advertisers do not get the user’s permission to do so.

Trust is the competitive advantage

As we’ve seen, people who trust the company offering an app because they know they’ll offer them the flexibility they need are more likely to accept tracking features.

People want to be in control. As you innovate, whether it’s in banking, healthcare, or retail, it’s important to create transparency in what data you’re making available via your APIs, so that you’re able to offer your customers control over their data and how it’s used.

Here at Axway, security is in our DNA. People cannot trust something that isn’t secure. If that security foundation is laid, this change in how your apps work doesn’t need to be a compliance speed bump: it can be an opportunity to strengthen a relationship of trust with your developer marketplace and your end customers.

We’ve seen similar dynamics play out in industries like healthcare or banking. PSD2 was an EU directive meant to increase EU cooperation and additional involvement within the payments industry, ultimately delivering improved protection for consumers.

Those who saw it not as just a mandate but as an opportunity to innovate gained better trust with their customers and had a solid foundation for their digital transformation.

Similarly, in healthcare, interoperability rules in the U.S. have mandated the use of FHIR APIs as a common healthcare business language, but not everyone is seizing the opportunity to deliver better digital patient experiences.

Apple’s decision is disruptive, yes, but we can also look at it as forcing good decisions about communicating user data. And that is good for building trust, creating a more positive experience for consumers.

Trust can be your competitive edge here, because those that already have a good trust level with their customers may be less disrupted in the next few months. Even my three-year-old knows this instinctively: we all want control. If you have a secure foundation and have been building trust and transparency with your customers, you can offer that level of control.

Soon, app users will start seeing pop-ups asking if they will allow your app to track their data and behavior. Our data shows about 40% of people will agree to it — whether your customers do so will depend in large part on how well they’re prepared to trust you.

Developers: here are 5 things to do NOW for Apple App Tracking Transparency API