Apple just dealt a new blow to Facebook with the release of some surprising information about iPhone ad targeting.

Over the last few years, the iPhone maker and Facebook have been embroiled in a bitter row over privacy. Things ramped up after the launch of Apple’s App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature in iOS 14.5, which limits the data Facebook can collect by giving iPhone users the option to opt out from tracking.

And opt out they have—Facebook could lose more than $12 billion as a result of the iPhone privacy features.

But some people have accused Apple of introducing ATT in a bid to boost its own advertising. The iPhone maker strongly denies this and has even commissioned a whiteaper to demonstrate its commitment to a privacy-preserving world.

Apple has always maintained that it’s possible to target iPhone users with ads, but without collecting a ton of personal data. It goes against the ethos of Facebook, and of course the other tech giant Google—which is introducing its own cookie replacement, Topics.


Apple has now delivered some surprising news that backs up its claims about private ad targeting. In a pitch to advertisers seen by AppleInsider, the iPhone maker revealed that non-targeted ads are just as effective as those that use first-party data.

The presentation—which covered Apple’s own search ads business—showed 78% of search volume on the App Store was from iPhones with first-party data collection turned off. In other words, iPhone users are still responding to ads, despite having turned first-party data collection off. It’s the first time Apple has shared stats on its Apple Advertising toggle.

As an aside, the toggle is located in Settings > Privacy > Apple Advertising in case you want to check yours now.

Ad targeting the Apple way

When you have the Apple Advertising toggle turned off, advertisers can target you via search terms—which simply use whatever is typed into the App Store search bar. Apple’s argument is that this method is just as effective as first-party ad targeting, and it gives advertisers a wider net of iPhone users who have the data collection turned off.

Of course, this is very different to the ATT feature that targets third party data across iPhone users’ other apps and services, but Apple is trying to show that privacy-focused tracking is possible.

It comes as the iPhone maker restructured its services team to focus more on its ad business. It’s likely not a coincidence, and with more people realising that invasive ad tracking from the likes of Facebook can be turned off, privacy-preserving methods will probably be welcomed by the industry too.


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