88% of iOS Users Reject Online Tracking

John Lister's picture

Just one in eight iPhone and iPad users have agreed to let an app track them online. They've been able to make the decision since Apple changed its rules, to the dismay of advertisers.

The change is to the way iOS handles a tag known as Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA). It identifies an individual device and allows advertisers to piece together information from multiple sources and activities.

While advertisers argue this allows for better targeted and thus more relevant (and less annoying) ads, users and privacy groups have objected to what they see as surveillance and snooping.

The change to iOS means users now give permission for individual apps to access the IDFA on an opt-in basis. Apps must request and receive the permission through an on-screen prompt.

US Users More Likely To Say No

A company called Flurry Analytics, which gather together data on app use, estimates that around the world 13 percent of iOS users have given permission for tracking from at least one app. In the US the figure is just five percent. (Source: techradar.com)

Some users have taken it to the extreme in the other direction. Around five percent of users worldwide and three percent in the US have switched on a Restricted tracking setting. That's effectively a blanket "no" to any tracking with apps not even allowed to ask for permission. It's certainly possible those figures would be higher if more users were aware of the setting.

Ad Industry Has Mixed Response

Advertising industry magazine Campaign quote an analysts as saying the acceptance figures are "at the lower end of already dire expectations." It also notes advertising executives arguing that the low rates are partly due to the wording of the permission request, referring to "tracking" rather than sharing anonymized information. (Source: campaignlive.co.uk)

Advertisers have also pointed to the way the request lists the "Ask App Not to Track" option before "Allow", implying the former should be seen as a default option.

However, others in the industry say the change is a good thing as it means advertisers will know that 100 percent of the audience for their ads will have intentionally given meaningful consent. That could benefit people promoting products and services through relevant ads, rather than people who make their money from selling data about users.

What's Your Opinion?

Have you given permission for tracking (or would you do so if that was an option on your devices)? Is Apple right to introduce this opt-in system? Do you fear free apps becoming less useful or even unavailable if you don't "pay" for them through tracking and other data?

Rate this article: 
Average: 4.9 (9 votes)


Boots66's picture

So 88% of users have finally realized that
THEIR PRIVACY is ONPOTANT to (wait) for themselves!
What else can be said, but. It’s about time!’
For decades people have allowed ad companies to bombard them anywhere to buy this, try this and
Then allowed them to track you as you use your computer In order to more pointedly hit you with ads!
Finally the majority is finally saying ENOUGH!

doulosg's picture

Advertisers cannot get relevancy to prevent ads from being annoying. I am laughably amazed at how much advertising I get for the product I just purchased.

If I don't need a pair of shoes (for example), being located across the street from a shoe store will not make their "relevant" ad any less annoying. In fact, the undoubtedly repetitious nature of the ads - that continue to be "relevant" - will probably increase the level of annoyance.

JeffRL's picture

Targeted ads only benefit the advertiser, not the consumer. They just reinforce what the consumer has already looked at and they don't get exposed to new things -- things they might buy if they found out about them. When we look through a magazine or newspaper (remember those?) or watch TV, we see ads for things not targeted at us individually. Like a previous comment says, if you've bought shoes online, seeing ads for more shoes is pointless and such targeted ads are at best ineffective and at worst a complete waste of time and money for the advertiser. Neither benefits consumers in any way.

The local public library has long had a set of shelves where they put recently returned books before staff put them back in their normal location. I always have a look through what's there and I've discovered books on topics I hadn't thought about before and authors I didn't know whose work I now seek out. If I only ever saw books on topics I regularly read, I wouldn't see those other books.

The other problem I have with targeted ads is the tracking aspect. If the government required everyone to report everything we buy, everything we do, and everywhere we go, people would rise up in rebellion, but so many people don't seem to care that they are reporting everything they buy, everything they do, and everywhere they go to huge corporations through tracking apps and social media. They even have listening devices in their homes. If the Pentagon and NASA and the personal e-mail of the CIA director, among many others, can be hacked, how can anyone be so naive as to think their data can't be hacked, too? Oh wait, that happens all the time and still people don't care.

The argument that "I don't have anything to hide" is even dumber and anyone who believes that is a fool so I won't waste any time countering it.

pctyson's picture

This is more a question that I have never really heard the answer too. Let's assume that the information from data collection companies on tracking is honest and they only collect data anonymously to target "relevant ads" to the user.

1st question:
How do they know whom to send the "relevant ads" too if the data is anonymous?

2nd question:
If the "relevant ads" are clicked on, either to dismiss the ad or to view it, can that now tie the "anonymous data" back to the user?

3rd question:
Assuming the answer is no to the above two questions, does it not still build a psychological profile of the user that can be used to the users disadvantage based on the type of ads that have been determined to be "relevant" to the user?