The software update that powers nearly a billion iPhones around the world should begin arriving this week, with an enhanced privacy feature that critics fear will sour the world of online advertising.
Apple begins by requiring app makers to tell users what tracking information they want to collect and to obtain permission to do so, while displaying what are referred to as privacy stickers.
The move by Apple, which has been in the works for months, caused a major rift with Facebook and other tech competitors, and could have major implications for data privacy and the mobile ecosystem.
Digital ads represent the lifeblood of internet giants, such as Google and Facebook, and are credited with paying for the abundance of free content and services online.
A software update is required for the iOS operating the iPhone, iPad, and iPod feature devices App Tracking Transparency, Which prevents apps from tracking users or accessing device identification information without permission.
Apple this week said in an online message to developers: Unless you get permission from the user to enable tracking, the device’s Ad ID value will be all zeroes and you may not track it.
The requirement, which some developers adopted early, applies to all iOS apps as of Monday, according to Apple.
Analysts said the new feature could upend the app economy along with digital advertising, and described the new policy as an agent of change.
They added: It is impossible to rule out the fact that mobile digital advertising is done through what Apple knows to be tracked, and that explicitly removing this activity from the ecosystem requires changing the mobile operating model.
With more than a billion iOS devices in active use worldwide, the change in the mobile operating system that is likely to hinder the effectiveness of digital advertising could be significant.
Advertising platforms are usually only paid when someone takes an action such as clicking on a marketing message.
Ads become irrelevant because less information about users can mean fewer clicks and, accordingly, less revenue.
Mobile apps and the internet in general have thrived by providing free information and games, with ads bringing in money to keep data centers running and revenue flowing.
And while some people who use iPhones may be granted permission to track, marketers fear many will choose privacy.
And Facebook warned early this year that Apple’s change of its mobile operating system would likely make targeting ads more difficult.
Mark Zuckerberg said: Apple has become one of Facebook’s biggest competitors through its competing iMessage messaging service, along with tightening its grip on the App Store, the only gateway to iPhone apps.
He added: Apple has an incentive to use its dominant position via its platform to interfere with how our and other applications work, which it does regularly to favor its applications.
The social media giant noted that Apple’s new measures of data collection and targeted advertising are hurting small businesses.
Tim Cook defended the move, saying: The individual must control whether or not to be tracked, and who has their data.
And apps are still able to target contextual ads based on what users do during sessions.
One analyst said: Advances in artificial intelligence and data analytics should help the platforms effectively target with less data on users.
He added: Advertisers should stay in touch with people without chasing after them, which is good for the consumer and good for brands, andI think Apple is right, as we should always aspire to be transparent.