Preparing for a Data-Absent World: A Brief Introduction

Noted July 13, 2020

First post of a multi-part series brought to you by Notable Growth. 

Flashback to the advent of the App Store, “data privacy” was hardly an utterance. Sure, most of us in technology were aware that our every move was being tracked and relayed back to a range of entities, but concerns around data privacy didn’t hit the mainstream until relatively recently. It wasn’t until popular discourse took notice of the underlying issues with unfettered access to consumer data (everyone from the government to your friendly big box retailer) that the gatekeepers like Google and Apple were forced to reevaluate their privacy policy. See: Cambridge Analytica/Facebook scandal of 2018

It was public pressure, not the unpredictable whim of Apple or Google, that you began to see restrictions on how marketers could track things like user location on a mobile device. Let’s look back on NYT’s expose on location tracking, which was a shocking look into the powers the receiving end of location data can hold. This, with perhaps Cambridge Analytica a few months earlier, were some of the first instances that consumer concerns around data privacy hit too close to home. 

While Apple moves slowly, within the year they were focusing substantial resources on introducing entirely new treatment for how they captured location data from their users and make it accessible to developers. Shortly after it’s launch, opt-in rates for location tracking dropped significantly. That isn’t to say location tracking has dipped entirely, as it is still widely believed that some location tracking can indeed improve the experience and utility of products. But the fact of the matter is, this is only the beginning of a much larger movement towards user’s protecting their data. And as that consciousness increases, Apple will continuously feel the pressure to side with their consumers and the groundswell of their demands. 

Back to the present day, and here we are looking at yet another major blow to the marketing and advertising industry, as Apple brings about major restrictions on IDFA collection. Apple certainly makes little indication as to how they came to this decision, but it’s apparent that general distrust in platforms like Facebook that derive their revenue primarily from advertising models contingent on personal data could have something to do with it. Not to mention CCPA, GDPR, and constant pressure from competitors like Google who are always trying to prove they value their user data even more. 

While directly impacted attribution vendors are still reeling from this, it’s unclear what exactly this will mean as it’s initial rollout in iOS 14 is upon us. If this was an isolated modification, maybe it wouldn’t be cause for alarm. But as you can see from moves like location tracking permissions the release before in iOS 13, this is another step in the direction of a world where data collection opportunities are increasingly sparse. 

Let’s face it, Apple has a stronghold on product team priorities. They set the rules, and we are at their whim. We are even needing in some cases to fork up a hefty percentage of earned revenue simply because they are the sole storefront for a captive iPhone audience. Why should we expect them to give any further concessions for the sake of an advertising or marketing industry, when it is obvious that consumer discourse has decidedly categorized data privacy as a top priority?

If you are a marketer reading this, perhaps you are wondering what the takeaway here is. In a world of data collection, what will this mean for my efforts to personalize and provide a custom-tailored experience? The answer isn’t so easy to provide, but we’ve put some thought into the longer term trends we might expect to dictate our future. In the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at this larger development and break down how growth teams should be adapting proactively.