There’s tension in the tech world today as Apple's software chief Craig Federighi has announced that Apple will restrict Facebook’s automated tracking tools in its next version of the iOS and Mac operating systems.
Speaking at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference, Federighi spoke of Facebook’s ability to track iOS users in ways they may not be aware of, stating “We’re shutting that down”. Federighi continued to explain that the updated Safari would ask the users’ permission before allowing Facebook to monitor activity and the company also plans to halt “fingerprinting”, a technique in which advertisers attempt to track users who delete their cookies.
It would seem Apple are willing to fill Safari with cookie-disabling prompts despite the potential for this to annoy users. They may be hoping that their announcement drives websites to reduce their tracking before this becomes the case.
So what does this mean for Facebook advertisers?
As Facebook’s tracking pixel works hand-in-hand with its cookies, we can expect a reduction in the number of events tracked on iOS and Mac devices once the update rolls out. Of course the scale of this ultimately depends on how many users decide to block Facebook’s tracking but this will very likely affect both event optimisation (for conversion-based campaigns) and reporting.
Campaigns that exclude these devices will likely be unaffected. Yet for those that don’t, there may be a reduction in activity as the iOS audience declines. Those that target iPhones individually can also expect a reduction in performance as iOS conversion optimisation suffers, with spend going down and costs going up. Of course, excluding the newest iOS from iPhone targeting may be a very short-term solution, but beyond this we may need to start avoiding iOS targeting more and focusing instead on other devices.
While we advertisers hope that the effect of the update is more minimal than the scenario above and plenty of iOS users still allow Facebook cookies, we shall have to wait with anticipation for a response from Mr Zuckerberg himself.