Alan Novak

Alan Novak

iOS 14 vs Facebook in fight for user privacy – in wars of the big ones, the loser is always the small guy

In mid-September 2020, Apple launched its latest version of its own operating system, called iOS 14, and according to good old custom, it was followed by a number of problems. Of course, the first to be hit were the users (from iPhone 6s users to ones of the latest models for which an upgrade is available), who reported numerous problems in everyday use of the device (usually excessive battery consumption or unnecessary features and removal of some that were dear to the users), but this time those who advertise on Facebook felt the problems on their own skin too.

In particular, Apple has introduced changes that will affect how we receive and process the analytics data obtained from their users from tools like Facebook Pixel, and that has greatly affected all those whose campaigns are based on conversions.

But what exactly has Apple done that has been reflected to such an extent and the way a large number of users advertise? Simple – they forbid the collection and sharing of data, unless people choose to track on iOS 14 devices via a notification that arrives on their mobile devices when using the app.

Of course, most users will decide not to share their data for marketing purposes with a smile on their face, and as more and more people will “hide” from tracking on iOS 14 devices, personalizing ads and reporting on campaign performance will be limited.

What does Facebook say about everything, you ask? Part of their explanation in the Facebook Business Help Center regarding these changes and how they will react to the new circumstances are presented below:

“… In response to these changes, we will also start processing pixel conversion events from iOS 14 devices using Aggregated Event Measurement (Author’s note: Aggregated Event Measurement tool is Facebook’s response to the aforementioned restrictions, and with which you will continue be able to choose from the 8 most common types of conversions to meet your advertising goals).This will support your efforts to preserve user privacy and help you run effective campaigns. We’ll provide updates and additional resources to support businesses advertising on our platform as they become available… ”- not exactly a trustworthy response, right?

We were free-handed and interpreted this in such a way that they are still not 100 percent sure in which direction all activities will go in order to reduce the possibility of misjudging the results. Except that we will probably look at tables and graphs with fictitious numbers, or a rough estimate according to statistics models. And we all know what they say about statistics and bikinis…

In the whole story, it’s really hard to get the impression that we are witnessing a case where an owl mocked an arbor, i.e. that one company accuses another of invading users’ privacy too deeply and “protecting” them with their actions, and Apple and Facebook have been criticized for years regarding the user privacy when it comes to collecting their data and analyzing behavior when using the devices.

Also, this conflict of technology giants will likely break again on the back of the little man, or all of us who make daily efforts to understand their systems, fight with various tools with similar or equal capabilities, and a general fight with windmills called Facebook advertising. Of course, none of these companies will lose significant funding in the war, but some advertisers could, such as those who do the work for others, for example, many agencies whose clients will leave because of dissatisfaction with the results shown and the value for money.

If we were to turn this war into a scene from a movie, it would be something like when Loki (Apple) brags in the movie Avengers that he has an army behind him, and Tony Stark (Facebook) tells him that they have the Hulk (Aggregated Event Measurement). But what remains unseen in that film is that New Yorkers (or here Facebook advertisers) are left with rubble and dust after their conflict.

In the end, the question arises how to deal with all these changes and what to do so your ads can still reach the right audience, and you can be sure of it? Sources on the Internet offer many possibilities, although none are the perfect solution to the problem. But cross-analyzing data from other networks, reviewing historical data as well as domain verification can help achieve better campaign optimization.

However, at the end of the day, perhaps the best solution is to leave Facebook advertising to verified and specialized agencies and other companies that are already familiar with this information and have adapted the ways of advertising for their clients. They may not have the Hulk, but at least they will protect you from direct impact and destruction that will remain after the dust settles…

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