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On Monday, June 22, Apple hosted the highly anticipated Worldwide Developers Conference - an annual affair where the company shares software updates for iPhones, Macs, and Apple TVs.

This year, the virtual conference came with a shocking twist of events for mobile advertisers. The Identifier for Advertisers, or IDFA for short, is Apple’s key mobile advertising tool that will now hold more stringent privacy requirements, making it harder for mobile marketers to take advantage of in-app advertising.

With the new privacy updates for iOS 14, IDFA is now an opt-in feature, meaning that app developers have to actively request consent before third parties can track users across apps and websites or access their device’s advertising identifier. To request permission, mobile app developers will now have to use the AppTrackingTransparency framework to prompt users to enable tracking and describe why they’d like to receive permission.

By rolling out this update, Apple effectively reshapes the way advertisers target users on a default basis as tracking is fundamental to display targeted ads in apps based on collected data; this also applies to media owners and brands, who are now required to disclose the data they collect and the external parties they share it with, such as monetization or analytics partners.

While this update in specific was treated as a minor announcement during the conference, the ramifications for mobile advertisers are pretty significant and add fuel to the rumors that Apple may cut off IDFA for good.

Another major cause for concern is what this all means for mobile ad fraud. Given the attribution difficulties of IDFA now being an opt-in feature, fraudsters will have a new grey area to fly under the radar.

“With the IDFA update, fraudsters can hide their activity from basic rule-based anti-fraud solutions. Despite the fact that such solutions have long been ineffective, this is probably the last nail in the lid of their coffin,” said Yuriy Yashunin, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at Scalarr.

Fortunately, advanced solutions have more than a fighting chance when it comes to detecting fraud, even in circumstances where these sorts of privacy updates benefit fraudsters.

“Going forward, with these new privacy updates, fraudsters will find it easier to stay undetected by traditional anti-fraud solutions,” said Sergey Zaichenko, Scalarr’s Head of Analytics. “Fortunately, the IDFA rules have little to no impact on the analysis we perform at Scalarr since every install has its own unique MMP ID in addition to device IDs. MMP IDs are essential in our analysis as it allows us to link users with post-install activity.”

While IDFA is not going anywhere yet, the new updates jeopardize the work of mobile attribution partners and mobile advertisers who heavily rely on in-app targeting. Simultaneously, this move by Apple opens up the door for fraudsters to run rampant (and stay hidden!) as these attribution hurdles make the market grow murkier.

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