Starting this fall, it may become more difficult for advertisers to target consumers based on the apps they have stored on their iPhone.
Apple is rolling out a new policy with iOS 9 that restricts advertisers from obtaining app download data, the company announced in a private session at its Worldwide Developers Conference, according to The Information’s Amir Efrati.
This is important because some advertisers look at which apps you’ve downloaded to determine which ads will be most relevant to you.
For example, if you’ve downloaded a lot of free camera apps, perhaps an advertiser would show you an ad for another free camera app you haven’t downloaded yet. Both Facebook and Twitter target ads this way, as Efrati notes.
But, since privacy is a big focus in iOS 9, Apple is starting to crack down on this. The company compares this to looking at the history in your web browser, saying that the apps a user installs should be private to the user.
Advertisers and other companies are currently able to obtain the app download data through an application programming interface, or API, in iOS called “canopenURL.”
This API is intended to make it easier for apps to communicate. But, now Apple is saying that companies are using it in an unintended way by using the API to see which apps a user has downloaded in order to target ads.
The change won’t go into effect until Apple releases its next big software update in the fall, but some companies are already suffering consequences.
A startup called iHasApp, which sold other developers data about which apps an iPhone user had installed on his or her device, shut down in May. Apple scolded iHasApp’s customers for “using public APIs in a manner not prescribed by Apple” according to Efrati.
Advertisers will likely be able to get the same information about which apps a user has downloaded from other sources, but the upcoming change in iOS just makes it more difficult for them to get that data and make sure their apps are targeted at the right people.
What’s interesting, though, is that it seems like this move could also mean trouble for free apps, which often rely on revenue from advertising since they don’t charge users to for downloads. With this change, it could be more difficult for the developers behind these apps to make sure their product is reaching the right audience, which could potentially make it harder to increase downloads.
At the same time, some iPhone users might appreciate the extra privacy.
This is just one way Apple is making it harder for advertisers to target ads in iOS 9. With the forthcoming update, Apple will allow iPhone and iPad owners to block advertisements in Safari, too. This is big for advertisers and publishers, which rely on ad sales for most of their revenue.
Some believe that since users have to go out of their way to block ads in iOS 9, the only people that will choose to block ads in Safari on iPhones and iPads are those that already do it on the desktop.
But both advertisers and publishers are still worried about the change. At the AppNexus Thinktech conference in London earlier this month, those in the advertising industry expressed concern about the ad-blocking feature in iOS 9, according to Business Insider’s Jim Edwards.
We’ve reached out to Apple for comment on this change and will update this article accordingly when we hear back.