What Is App Tracking Transparency (ATT) and How Does It Affect Mobile Marketing?

By Vungle | May 26, 2021

Apple’s increased emphasis on — and enforcement of — user privacy has created a new paradigm for the way advertisers collect information on mobile devices. Limit Ad Tracking (LAT) addresses privacy from the consumer side, while the AppTrackingTransparency (ATT) framework tackles it from the publisher and advertiser side. Read on to learn exactly what App Tracking Transparency is, and what it means for mobile marketing.

What is Limit Ad Tracking?

Limit Ad Tracking (LAT) is an iOS feature that lets users opt out of having their identifier for advertisers (IDFA) tracked, drastically reducing the amount of information advertisers can glean from user devices. LAT has existed since iOS 10, but as of iOS 14.5, LAT will be enabled as the default, meaning users have to opt in to IDFA tracking on an app-by-app basis.

What is App Tracking Transparency?

The AppTrackingTransparency framework comes into play when a person allows apps to request to track. Apple specifically defines tracking as: “The act of linking user or device data collected from your app with user or device data collected from other companies’ apps, websites, or offline properties for targeted advertising or advertising measurement purposes. Tracking also refers to sharing user or device data with data brokers.” One important caveat to note is that working with a data broker for fraud detection or prevention isn’t considered tracking.

You can collect data from your own app, but only if the user gives permission and only once you’ve informed them of how that data is going to be used. The App Tracking Transparency prompt can be presented at any point in the app experience and can provide context or why you want their data and how it will be used. It can even ask them to change their privacy preference for your app and provide a shortcut to their device’s settings menu. What you can’t do is incentivize users to opt in to tracking with in-game currency, locked content, or manipulative language. If you’re thinking about devising a workaround that uses a tracking method other than IDFA, forget it, because that’s against the rules, too.

App Store listings

Apple has codified their terminology with regard to user data to ensure that all developers are using the same language in their App Tracking Transparency, breaking data into categories such as Financial, Sensitive, or Usage. They’ve similarly spelled out exactly what constitutes each kind of data usage, allowing for behavior like Analytics, Product Personalization, and, of course, Third-Party Advertising.

Developers will have to disclose their app’s privacy practices for it to be eligible for placement on the App Store, where the listing will reveal some or all of that information. This includes any third-party code your app may contain, including SDKs.

These requirements should’ve been in effect when iOS 14 launched, but Apple pushed the App Tracking Transparency deadline to give developers more time to update their apps. On January 28 (Data Privacy Day), Apple announced that ATT would launch to users in “early spring.” The same day, Apple released the report “A Day in the Life of Your Data” to inform consumers about how and why apps want to track their data and what ATT will do. ATT eventually went into full enforcement on April 26 in iOS 14.5.

Why does ATT matter now?

App Tracking Transparency is designed to prevent apps from collecting users’ data without consent. Users’ information only goes where they want it to, a boon for personal privacy and a challenge for any ad networks not yet investing in contextual targeting infrastructures.

Let’s use the Facebook Audience Network as an example. Facebook collects a massive amount of personal data across their brands (Instagram, WhatsApp), which they then provide to advertisers. Those advertisers can employ that granular information to target ads toward the users most likely to click on them. Someone browsing sheets on Brooklinen one day may find themselves being served ads for Purple mattresses the next. Once Apple flips the switch on ATT, Facebook will no longer be able to leverage data collected on untracked iOS devices beyond what can be observed within their own ecosystem.

ATT doesn’t stop ad networks from serving ads, but the combination of ATT and LAT does make it significantly harder for advertisers to target and personalize their campaigns on ad networks. They can still collect some information about user behavior, but it’s not nearly as specific as what they’ve been using for years.

Is App Tracking Transparency on Android?

ATT is an iOS feature and therefore not on Android per se, though it prevents advertisers from using information collected by a third party via Android’s operating system. As of this writing, Google has been reported to be exploring privacy features similar to, but less restrictive than, ATT. Google has a difficult task ahead finding the balance between respecting the growing desire for digital privacy and their own financial interests. Google earned about $146 billion through its Google Ads platform, a total that will almost certainly be impacted by ATT.

How Vungle can help

By enriching our mobile performance marketing platform with the detailed contextual data of GameRefinery by Vungle and the powerful predictive intelligence of AlgoLift by Vungle, we’re now uniquely positioned to provide post-iOS 14 ad performance above and beyond what other leading mobile ad networks are capable of.

Vungle advertisers are able to leverage a collection of highly specific marketing signals not available anywhere else, and use that information to predict future value and optimize user acquisition campaigns. Our unique combination of Ad Intelligence and automated bid management makes Vungle the perfect growth partner for the ATT era of mobile marketing.

Want to learn more? Contact us today to get started.