Last update: October 2021

4 mins to read - 2021/10/01

Kids’ Apps in the Age of App Tracking Transparency (ATT)

The mobile marketing industry is currently undergoing a momentous shift when it comes to data privacy. Apple is leading the way, including more customizable features that prevent your data being tracked by 3rd parties, as well as some device-side computing features. In January 2021, Apple completely upended the mobile advertising industry by announcing that with the iOS 14.5 advertisers would have to gain device user consent before tracking their IDFA. Google is following suit with its intention to phase out cookies on the Google Chrome browser by 2022. Many doomsayers have hailed this Apple’s new framework, known as App Tracking Transparency (ATT), as the end of mobile advertising as we know it. However, as the exploitative “Attention Economy” grinds to a close, a new era of privacy and transparency promises a lot of exciting potential for the mobile industry, especially kids’ apps.

Download our Data Security Whitepaper to learn more about OpenBack’s innovative approach to data privacy:

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How Will App Tracking Transparency Affect Kids’ Apps?

In two words: don’t panic. Mobile apps in Western countries need to abide by data privacy regulations as it is (COPPA in the US and GDPR-K in the EU). So the introduction of App Tracking Transparency won’t make much of a difference for kids’ apps, which should already be adhering to those guidelines. And it may even level the playing ground some, giving kids’ apps more of a foothold on the app monetization market.

Effectively, App Tracking Transparency is a new feature in iOS 14.5 and upwards in which apps have to obtain the permission of users before tracking their activity across other apps and websites. Before the system notification request (pictured above) is sent, apps have a chance to send a pre-permission notification – much like they have already been doing to persuade Apple users to opt-in to receiving notifications – to explain what data they will be collecting, what they will be doing with it, and why it benefits the app UX to do so.

Any app that falls under the purview of COPPA (or of GDPR-K) will by default be sending a notification asking for permission to tracker the user – although in this case it’s the parents who will be giving their consent – so ATT won’t be a huge stretch. In fact, for kids’ apps which saw unique challenges in the form of gaining parental consent in the past might find App Tracking Transparency will open up new opportunities.

What Is SKAdNetwork, and How Will It Replace IDFA?

IDFA, meaning “Identifier for Advertisers,” performed the same function for iOS mobile devices as cookies to for web browsers. They are a way of tracking user data to create anonymized customer profiles for 3rd-party advertisers to send targeted ads. Now that Apple has done away with IDFAs, it has replaced them with SKAdNetwork.

SKAdNetwork is an alternate framework for mobile advertising. It transmits attribution data as well as in-app event data, sending a verification to the ad host if a user clicks on an ad, and it leads to a download and installation. This way, it is possible to track metrics without outright collecting user data. While some advertisers may be disappointed by the lack of accuracy, this may actually be a positive solution for monetizing kids’ apps, which under COPPA are unable to track user data as it was.

Receiving reliable conversion metrics via the SKAdNetwork at least gives some insights into how effective your advertising campaign is. Simply analyze conversion metrics and work backward, then optimize based on what ads get the most results for particular user segments.

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How Could Apple’s Shift to Device-Side Computing Affect Kids’ Apps?

As we have explored in previous blog posts on data privacy, Apple is also dipping its toe in the realm of device-side data processing. For example, users’ Apple IDs are no longer connected to Siri, and the audio of your requests are processed 100% on-device through the Apple Neural Engine. When data is stored on Apple servers – for the purpose of improving Siri – it’s cached under a random identifier so it can never be traced back to an individual.

Currently, there are a lot of possibilities for using device-side data processing for improved privacy that remain largely unexplored. However, most mobile marketers agree that the writing is on the wall for IDFAs and cookies, which means the next year or so will be a very exciting time for finding new approaches to personalizing mobile ads and other communications in a way that’s both effective and responsible from a privacy viewpoint.

Device-Side Computing and COPPA Compliance

In fact, OpenBack has been making strides in leveraging device-side data since the company’s launch. With our hybrid mobile engagement platform, our default mode of sending push notifications involves processing data entirely on the device itself. This means there is no need to ever send data to a cloud messenger center for processing. Using OpenBack to send push notifications, your app will remain fully COPPA compliant and kid-friendly. And since data never leaves the device, you don’t have to obtain parental consent before sending notifications.

This method offers the best of both worlds: highly personalized and relevant notifications, real-time delivery, and full insights on retention and behavior metrics… as well as being regulation compliant and respectful of your users’ privacy. The mobile marketing industry will continue evolve, and with it will come new, more forthright ways of personalizing ads for users. And while this new tier of push notifications won’t replace the targeted advertising economy that’s on its way out, it’s likely they will usher in something even better.

To learn more about device-side computing, and how you can use OpenBack to optimize your push notification campaign, get in touch with one of our experts.

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