Apple is delaying the rollout of new privacy rules that had threatened to cut off billions of dollars of advertising revenues for major developers including Facebook.
The iPhone maker had faced an outcry from developers over the new rules, which would require apps to get users’ permission, via a pop-up window, before gathering data that allows tracking and ad targeting.
Apple said in June it would require developers to include the new feature, AppTrackingTransparency, for the launch of iOS 14, its new operating system expected later this month.
Developers complained they had not had enough time to react, and Facebook warned last month that the proposed changes could halve some app makers’ ad revenue. Other critics said the changes would unfairly benefit Apple’s own fledgling advertising business, and raised competition concerns about the company’s control over the iPhone.
Apple said on Thursday the rollout would be delayed until 2021.
“We want to give developers the time they need to make the necessary changes, and as a result, the requirement to use this tracking permission will go into effect early next year,” the company said.
However, it added that it remained committed to implementing the changes and to giving users the ability to opt out of tracking “on an app-by-app basis”.
Apple said: “We believe technology should protect users’ fundamental right to privacy. And that means giving users tools to understand which apps and websites may be sharing their data with other companies for advertising or advertising measurement purposes, as well as the tools to revoke permission for this tracking.”
The delay is likely to be welcomed by Facebook, who last week put out a statement saying the new rules would hurt the ability of businesses “to accurately target and measure their [advertising] campaigns”, rendering one of its advertising features “so ineffective on iOS 14 that it may not make sense to offer it” on the operating system.
At its last earnings, the social media group’s chief financial officer David Wehner also said the change would hurt the company’s own revenues, by making it “harder for app developers and others to grow using ads on Facebook”.
The skirmish over tracking on iOS 14 is one of several where frustrated developers are becoming more vocal about Apple’s policies. Epic Games, maker of the popular gaming app Fortnite, is suing the company in a dispute over the 30 per cent cut of revenues that Apple takes from app makers.
Apple is also under scrutiny from antitrust regulators in the US and Europe for allegedly abusing its power. Developers led by the music streaming service Spotify, e-reader Kobo, lost items finder Tile and email app Hey have made complaints that Apple stifles competition and competes with app makers on an unlevel playing field.
Developers have pointed out that the mooted privacy framework for iOS 14 would give preferential access to Apple, whose own “Apple Advertising” tool featuring personalised ads will be switched on by default.
One developer, who declined to be named, said fewer than half of users are likely to say yes to a pop-up request for tracking permission. “So suddenly the ad system that everyone has been using is going to turn off, and the only way you can advertise to those users is by going to Apple,” the person said.