Apple Is Crushing Deep Links That Were Used As Ad-Tracking Devices

iOS 14’s new opt-in ad tracking feature is about to debilitate deep links and cut advertisement revenue streams

Anupam Chugh
Nov 25, 2020 · 4 min read
apple deep links ios 14
apple deep links ios 14
Photo by Denis Cherkashin on Unsplash

The fact that Apple has been cracking down on privacy in recent years is no mystery.

With iOS 13, the tech giant gave users more transparency about their location use.

Subsequently, with iOS 14, Apple doubled down with the new approximate location permission. This caused distress among advertisement agencies.

But, still, the loss of revenue wasn’t significant until Apple unveiled a new opt-in ad tracking feature with iOS 14.

For those who are new, iOS 14 has plans to roll out a pop-up that lets the user choose whether they’d want ads to track them across apps and websites or not. If the user decides against ad tracking, the app cannot collect the IDFA, ad identifier.

As digital agencies heavily rely on personalized to determine user trends and ultimately monetize them, this single dialog had upheaved the entire mobile advertising ecosystem during the WWDC 2020.

Unsurprisingly, Facebook cried foul play, and Apple obliged by postponing the feature to give developers and businesses time to cope up with the changes.

Now that the controversial privacy feature is finally rolling out at the start of 2021, Deep Links that were used in the app ads are about to go obsolete.

Advertisement agencies earn every time a user clicks an ad-based deep link URL

For starters, Deep Link is a web URL that sends the user directly to an app instead of a website.

In simpler words, deep links contain all the information to allow the developer to route the user to certain pages within apps. For example, a link can let the user automatically login or log out from the app or reset their password.

Though for this to work, the app needs to be first installed on the device. Deep Links are smart and would take the user to the App Store to download and install the app and subsequently open the specific page of the app based on the metadata.

Deep links vastly improve the mobile experience and increase the likelihood of installing or opening an app.

But then, Deep links are also becoming a crucial part of retargeting campaigns thereby opening an opportunity for monetization from ads.

Essentially, mobile app publishers have been exploiting deep-link URLs similar to web cookies.

Advertisement agencies would leverage deep links to track a user's identity thanks to the availability of IDFA(a unique iOS device identifier).

In doing so, marketers could feed personalized ads to bring more click impressions, higher conversion rates, increased retention over time. Each of these factors has been driving up the revenues from ads at the expense of user’s privacy.

Now with iOS 14, Apple is all set to debilitate deep links that were used as mobile app ad-tracking devices.

Facebook’s Billion-Dollar Ad Empire Is About To Feel The Squeeze

Since the Facebook family of apps are largely free, it's not surprising that advertisements are a huge source of revenue for the social media giant.

If you’d open the Instagram or Facebook newsfeed on any given day, one in five posts you see is generally an ad. Strangely, Facebook urges its partners to add deep links in their ads and incentivize products on the social media platform.

But with iOS 14’s opt-in ad-tracking making IDFA almost obsolete, Facebook Ads SDK is forced to comply with Apple’s new privacy-focused SKAdNetwork framework — which limits the data available to businesses for measuring campaigns and creating targeted ads.

So, advertisement agencies would no longer be able to match the exact user from deep link app installs. Neither would they be able to build accurate customer models to predict their behavior as we all saw in the Netflix documentary Social Dilemma.

Instead, advertising networks would have to compromise with probabilistic matching — a technique that uses an IP address to predict specific users. But this would certainly lead to diminished ad revenues as re-targeting users wouldn’t be that accurate.

Facebook’s already informed its partners that Apple’s new privacy feature could cause a 50 percent drop in revenue from advertisements.

Conclusion

When a user pays a premium amount for an Apple device, the last thing they’d expect is being exploited. Making money by tracking isn’t something a user would ever sign up for.

Apple by bringing an opt-in ad-tracking has killed two birds with one stone. They’ve ensured deep links can no longer be used for tracking users. But more importantly, the tech giant has given users better control and consent over their privacy.

That’s it for this one. Thanks for reading.

The Big Tech

The best stories from the tech world

Anupam Chugh

Written by

Pouring thoughts in technology and code. Writer with over 2M views. An Android and iOS developer by the day. Sometimes funny. linktr.ee/anupamchugh

The Big Tech

The Big Tech covers stories primarily from Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Google and more.

Anupam Chugh

Written by

Pouring thoughts in technology and code. Writer with over 2M views. An Android and iOS developer by the day. Sometimes funny. linktr.ee/anupamchugh

The Big Tech

The Big Tech covers stories primarily from Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Google and more.

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