Facebook warns developers iOS 14 could sink app ad revenue

Apple’s anti-tracking features could make Facebook's Audience Network 'ineffective."

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Apple’s upcoming iOS 14 will be a disaster for app developers that rely on Facebook’s ad-tracking tools, the social network is warning.

That’s because iOS 14 comes with a series of privacy updates meant to make it harder for apps to scoop up personal data without users’ explicit consent. Among the changes: apps need to ask for permission before they collect Apple’s device identifier. This identifier, also known as IDFA, is how developers using Facebook’s Audience Network link your Facebook data to an outside app in order to show a targeted ad.

Facebook seems to expect that enough people will opt out of this type of “personalization” that it could crater developers’ advertising business. “In testing we’ve seen more than a 50% drop in Audience Network publisher revenue when personalization was removed from mobile ad install campaigns,” Facebook writes in an update to developers. “In reality, the impact to Audience Network on iOS 14 may be much more.”

In another blog post, Facebook says that the effect on ad targeting could be so dramatic that “Apple’s updates may render Audience Network so ineffective on iOS 14 that it may not make sense to offer it on iOS 14.”

Facebook, unsurprisingly, is framing the move as one that will harm the small businesses and developers who rely on Facebook’s ad tools for growth. “We understand that iOS 14 will hurt many of our developers and publishers at an already difficult time for businesses,” the company wrote, echoing the same criticism it recently leveled at Apple for refusing to waive in-app purchase commission.

What Facebook doesn’t mention is that such a change will also impact its own ad revenue. Just how much is unclear, but it’s enough of a threat that Mark Zuckerberg and other execs warned investors that changes to ad targeting could harm their business during the company’s last earnings call. But its latest warnings, and the warning that it may turn off Audience Network on iOS 14 entirely, is the first time Facebook has weighed in on just how big an impact the changes could have.