Evolving data collection practices to preserve user privacy

“Privacy is a fundamental human right,” stated Apple in their latest Worldwide Developers Conference where they announced the upcoming release of iOS14. Apple’s most recent news pushes the industry’s privacy and data collection practices further down the path of providing consumers with more transparency over their data and how it’s used. This is where the market has been and will continue to go in the years to come.

What’s unique about the upcoming operating system changes is that they represent a shift away from precise, deterministic methods of addressing audiences and attributing efforts to specific marketing channels to one of broad, modeled methodologies. To be clear, precise and deterministic practices don’t mean “insecure” or “not privacy-focused.” It simply means that Apple has elected to make changes to the data previously generated by a device because its business model doesn’t utilize it – even if your company does.

What’s New with iOS 14

Though many announcements were made at WWDC, there are three primary changes that will impact app developers and Gimbal Location SDK customers.

1) New Location Permission Prompts

Users will soon be able to choose to share an approximate location with each app on their phone or their precise location, which was previously the default and only option available.

  • iOS 14 will introduce an updated permission prompt which includes a map with a toggle that allows users to turn Precise Location “on” or “off.”
  • When the toggle is “on,” the user is shown their exact location on a map. When the toggle is “off,” the user is shown a larger, zoomed out view with a broad indication of where they are in the world. The user can manage their location permissions – including precise location – in the app’s settings.
  • Developers will also be able to request one-time access to Precise Location if there is an important feature in the app that requires this such as curbside pickup or other onsite experiences.

2) Opt-In Prompt for IDFA Access

Apps will be required to ask for permission to track users across other apps and websites using its advertising identifier, known as the IDFA. A user will be able to choose between “Allow Tracking” or “Ask App Not To Track.” There is also a new global “Allow Apps to Request to Track” switch that users can toggle to remove IDFA prompts going forward.

Consumers previously had the ability to reset their IDFA at any time, thereby decoupling any previous data history from their future actions. They also had – and will continue to have – the ability to universally opt out of Interest-Based Advertising through a number of industry programs.

However, if your organization relies on Apple’s identifier to unify app, advertising, and other actions in your DMP, you will have two options moving forward:

  1. Make a compelling case to both Apple and your app users as to why IDFA offers a better overall experience.
  2. Partner with a dedicated cross-device and/or identity solutions provider to help you tie data signals together for a more unified approach to customer interactions.

3) In-App Data Collection

App developers will be required to list the data they collect about users which includes a high-level overview of how it accesses, uses, and shares app user data. It’s also important to note that this information is self-reported by the app developer and displayed in the App Store Connect.

Implementing Changes for the iOS 14 Rollout

While the most successful app developers and publishers have always needed to highlight the value of sharing their IDFA and location to end users, providing a clear explanation of what the IDFA and precision location data will be used for is now of utmost importance for Apple – who will act as the ultimate gatekeeper, deciding what use cases are permissible.

Below are a few recommendations to get more users to opt-in:

  1. Be specific about the wording that will appear in your location prompts to ensure it is accurate, transparent, and clearly communicates the value of location services.
  2. Highlight the benefits of your app that require location services, i.e. in-store mode, and direct the user to update their location permissions in the privacy section of their device.
  3. Clearly and concisely disclose the reason location data and/or IDFA are needed in your privacy policy. In addition to location-opt in, it will be critical for app owners to review privacy policy best practices and ensure disclosure of why each type of data is being generated.

Location services are used by many brands to enhance their end-user experience while in or near store locations. With COVID, new use cases like curbside pickup, Buy Online Pickup In-Store (BOPIS), and other contactless solutions, location services will be required for seamless on-site experiences. The key to maximizing adoption will be to clearly communicate this value to end uses across all customer communications: privacy policies, app permission opt-ins, App Store Connect, and any other outlet in which users should be informed about how their data is being accessed and used.

Gimbal is testing early beta releases of the OS to stay ahead of major changes and will provide updates with more details on what our customers should expect and look out for. Once we know more, we will provide a series of best practices and developer guides to help our customer along the way.

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