At WWDC on June 5th, Apple announced iOS 17 privacy updates that are going to majorly disrupt marketing attribution.
iOS 17 automatically removes ads tracking parameters from links, making it more difficult than ever to track the user journey across a multi-touch ecommerce experience.
For marketers and advertisers, that means the days of relying on Google Click Identifiers (GCLID) in hyperlinks from ad clicks are coming to a close. This brings attribution to the forefront of ecommerce’s top problems to solve in the coming months and years.
The new anti-tracking system for iOS 17, called Link Tracking Protection, will stop users from being tracked through hyperlinks while using Safari in Private Browsing mode. It will do this by automatically detecting user-identifiable tracking parameters in URLs and removing them.
Before iOS 17
After iOS 17
Beyond Safari Private Browsing, the iOS 17, iPadOS 17 and macOS Sonoma updates will also remove tracking parameters from links clicked within Mail and Messages apps.
Marketing Attribution After iOS 17 Tracking & Privacy Update
Apple will be enabling an alternative way to measure campaigns for marketers though Private Click Measurement. It’ll be a form of ad attribution that allows you to at least track conversion events.
It’s a far cry from getting rich attribution data from GCLIDs that used to reveal individual user activity, but it’s at least a lifeline for marketers who need some way of measuring ad performance.
In 2017, Apple introduced Intelligent Tracking Protection (ITP) which blocked third-party cookies, and limited the lifespan of certain first-party cookies. And when iOS 14.5 rolled out in 2021, it ensured that app developers who notoriously collect user information (like Facebook / Meta), had to ask permission to access users' advertising ID. Thus, further complicating some of the most common and, at the time, taken-for-granted means of tracking ad performance across Google and Facebook.
iOS 17 feels like another one of these moments. It will send marketers and advertisers into a temporary tailspin as they lose their beloved click IDs and ad targeting and personalization will, at least in the short term, take a serious hit.
For all the good intent of improving privacy from Apple, iOS 17 is likely to induce frustration from online shoppers as ads across Facebook and Google become less relevant to the individual.
If you want to read up about best practices for using UTM parameters, now might be a great time to get your ducks in a row. iOS 17 will leave UTMs untouched, meaning that embedding them in your landing pages will be especially important for at least understanding action taken after the user arrives.
iOS 17 Release Date
The first developer beta of iOS 17 was released June 2023. The first public beta will be July 2023. And the full iOS 17 release date is planned for September 2023.