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Mobile Monday: One Year of AppTrackingTransparency and Privacy Protection on Android

Posted May 2, 2022

Digital Turbine is constantly keeping tabs on the mobile world, and every week, we’re sharing the most interesting and important need-to-know stories and articles. In this edition of Mobile Monday, we’re covering the first year of AppTrackingTransparency and Google adding a safety section to the Play store. Learn all about these stories in this week’s Mobile Monday!

Apple’s Forbidden Fruit

Apple’s App Tracking Transparency announcement turns one year old this week, and many are celebrating by doing what everyone has been doing over the past year – analyzing and speculating about the end result of all of it. Vox’s recent article, The winners and losers of Apple’s anti-tracking feature “celebrates” the anniversary by telling consumers not to worry – they’re still being tracked and targeted with ads anyway. 

Not that this should be much of a surprise. Clicking “Do not Allow App to Track” every time they open an app might give people a feeling like they are taking ownership of their privacy. But the fine print of “across other companies’ apps and websites” simply means they aren’t tracking what you do outside of their app. What happens within Facebook, Amazon, Google, or any other app is still fine to track. And track it they do, leading Vox to comment on who the winners (Google, Amazon, and, of course, Apple) and losers (Facebook or Meta) are one year later. 

This summary won’t come as a surprise to all you experts in the industry. It’s been known for a long time that Apple’s “Consumer-friendly” privacy plan would end up in helping itself (along with a few other walled gardens) that have ad platforms. Existing, traditional ad platforms like Facebook were bound to take a short term hit. But rest assured that with metrics being tracked differently and smarter than before, it won’t be long until businesses figure out what platforms truly work best for them. And while Apple still might be amongst those winners, it’s certainly not guaranteed.

App “Nutrition Labels” Come to Android Devices

As Google catches up to Apple’s privacy regulations and policies for app publishers and developers, they announced that their own version of “nutrition labels” for apps where data linked and tracked to users will have to be disclosed, will go fully into effect this summer, as noted in TechCrunch

The update is not required for publishers until July, but Google relayed that they will begin launching the Google Play Data safety section, as they’re calling it, gradually before the summer deadline. This latest data protection policy is going into effect a little over a year after it was announced by Google, giving publishers plenty of time to get ready and users a taste of what’s to come in terms of privacy protection on Android. 

In their version of a “nutrition label,” Google is allowing developers to explain what data is being used and why, giving more context to users who want to know more about their data usage. Suzanne Frey, VP, Product, Android Security and Privacy at Google, notes, “in designing our labels, we learned developers appreciate when they can provide context about their data practices and more detail on whether their app automatically collects data versus if that collection is optional. We also learned that users care about whether their data is shared with other companies, and why.”

Checking in on Apple’s ATT

Apple’s dramatic privacy changes created an impact on the mobile advertising industry, to say the least. While the doomsday scenario some saw did not occur, the impact, balance and changes some of the mobile ecosystem players’ experiences can’t be ignored. 

Insider Intelligence / eMarketer checked in one year later. Opt-in rates for AppTrackingTransparency, once users had to choose which way they go, have seen a huge uptick since the initial rollout. While opt-in rates were as low as 23.64% in the first months – we’re now seeing just under half of users opted in (with a majority of apps showing the pop-up).

The data is showing 46% of users across all app categories consented to tracking – with initial estimates standing at 2-20%. The data also shows that 80% of all iOS apps have implemented the tracking pop-up – with gaming apps leading at 91%. Users are seeming to be much more likely to opt-in the sooner they are prompted, with apps showing the prompt on first launch showing to be 30% more likely to see users consent.

Looking ahead, Lotame estimates that ATT’s changes could reduce revenues for Twitter, Snap, Meta, and YouTube by a collective $16 billion – but with opt-in rates growing higher, the report states that “this is not the nail in the coffin for digital advertising that some believed it would be”.

About Mobile Mondays
Mobile Monday examines the latest news, trends, and developments in mobile apps, tech, and advertising. Do you have a story to share for the next Mobile Monday?  

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