Apple postpones iOS 14 feature that lets users control who can track them

Apple has decided to postpone a controversial update to iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and tvOS 14 that, the company said, will enable iOS users to control whether advertisers could track their behaviour across multiple applications.

Earlier this year, during the launch of iOS 14, Apple said the latest version of its mobile operating system will come with new privacy controls that will make it mandatory for all applications to obtain permission from users for tracking them.

Aside from giving users the right to deny applications the ability to track their behaviour across applications, Apple said iOS 14 will also enable users to "choose to share their approximate location with app developers rather than their precise location when granting any app location access and get even more transparency into an app’s use of the microphone and camera."

The announcement drew an immediate response from Facebook who contended that the new privacy feature could seriously impact revenues from advertisers as the latter rely on the tracking of user behaviour across applications to make their advertising more accurate.

“We’re still trying to understand what these changes will look like and how they will impact us and the rest of the industry, but at the very least, it’s going to make it harder for app developers and others to grow using ads on Facebook and elsewhere,” Facebook's Chief Financial Officer David Wehner told CNBC.

“Our view is that Facebook and targeted ads are a lifeline for small businesses, especially in the time of Covid, and we are concerned that aggressive platform policies will cut at that lifeline at a time when it is so essential to small business growth and recovery,” Wehner added.

The social media giant also said in a blog post that industry consultation is critical for changes to platform policies, as these updates have a far-reaching impact on the developer ecosystem. "Like all ad networks on iOS 14, advertiser ability to accurately target and measure their campaigns on Audience Network will be impacted, and as a result publishers should expect their ability to effectively monetize on Audience Network to decrease," the company said.

While iOS 14 is expected to arrive this Fall along with Apple's latest devices, Apple made a surprise announcement today, stating that it has decided to postpone the arrival of the new privacy feature until early next year to give developers "time to make necessary changes".

"In addition, on iOS 14, iPadOS 14, and tvOS 14, apps will be required to receive user permission to track users across apps or websites owned by other companies, or to access the device's advertising identifier. We are committed to ensuring users can choose whether or not they allow an app to track them.

"To give developers time to make necessary changes, apps will be required to obtain permission to track users starting early next year. More information, including an update to the App Store Review Guidelines, will follow this fall," Apple said via an update on its developer portal.

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