Does user privacy have to come at the expense of an incredible user experience?

By Oren Kaniel
privacidade do usuário ios 14

And why closing the feedback loop is crucial to enabling both

Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, said in a recent statement that:

“The App Store is a place where innovators and dreamers can bring their ideas to life, and users can find safe and trusted tools to make their lives better.”

In order to deliver better user privacy, do users necessarily need to compromise on their experience, and the value they’re getting from their favorite apps? Must there really be a trade-off, or can the two coexist? 

Privacy is a fundamental human right, and a core value that both Apple and AppsFlyer share. Over the years, and most recently in its latest worldwide developer conference, Apple proved that there is a way to maintain both user privacy, and a superior user experience.

Let’s review some of Apple’s recent privacy enhancements:

  • Photos – When allowing an app to access your photos, you can now give permission to share only specific photos, instead of the entire photo library. 
  • Contacts – With iOS 14, you won’t have to share your entire contact list with apps, just the ones your app really needs access to in order to provide its promise. 
  • WiFi – Devices will not broadcast your MAC address (a non-resettable, persistent ID) to every WiFi hotspot around you. 
  • Camera & microphone – You will now have a clear indication when an app is using your camera and microphone. 

None of these privacy enhancements compromise the user’s experience, or the value they receive from their device or a given app. On the contrary, these measures increase users’ trust in the app store economy. Eventually, these actions are win-win-win for everyone – consumers, app developers, and the app store economy at-large.

User experience and privacy - Apple iOS 14 update
Apple’s privacy decisions – enhanced privacy AND better user experience
IDFA app tracking transparency consent apple iOS14
ATT Framework – Apple

The IDFA/ATT change

Following these important improvements, Apple introduced the App TrackingTransparency (ATT) framework, which will ultimately eliminate the IDFA

The IDFA is a great tool that enables the app store economy to flourish. On the other hand, it introduces privacy concerns, as it can be used in various ways, some of which could potentially harm user privacy. The IDFA is not inherently “bad” or “good” for users, and depends entirely on how it’s used. 

IDFA risks (the “bad”)

IDFAs can be used to measure users across apps, build user profiles without proper consent or worse, attach GPS data to users across apps. In addition, they can be used for questionable practices like selling customer data and trading it for targeting or other uses. Apple is trying to get rid of these practices on their platform, which is without doubt a great move.

IDFA benefits (the “good”)

User experience

In many cases, the IDFA is used to provide a stellar user experience and increased value to consumers.

If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. There is no doubt that measurement, or closing the feedback loop with attribution, is the key to improving user experience. Did the user find value in what was offered to them? Was the user experience good? 

To properly understand and measure the user’s journey, there is no need for any measuring across apps, no profiling, and surely no selling of user data. Developers measure users’ activity within the scope of their apps, and connect that to their owned media such as websites, social media platforms, emails, user referrals, and their own ads which users interacted with to install their app. 

Monetization and the app store economy

Measurement allows app developers to monetize their work, so they can continue to innovate and create better products for their users. On the other hand, measurement makes sure that these developers present current and future users with relevant and appealing content, rather than spraying and praying.

Moreover, IDFA introduced a major privacy improvement over its predecessor – the UDID, with the ability to reset and opt-out. Without the IDFA or an appropriate replacement, some in the ecosystem might be pushed to find loopholes, or use far more intrusive techniques. 

Great user privacy and great user experience can coexist

Think about cars, for example; no one would think to suggest eliminating the use of cars altogether, even though they can be very dangerous. We believe that there are ways to increase users’ privacy and to improve their experience, creating a win-win-win for everyone.

UX and privacy re: iOS14 Apple updates
Eliminating IDFA without allowing proper attribution: Great privacy. Negative user experience

In the last two years, we’ve been preparing for an IDFA-less ecosystem. We’ve been investing in multiple products and solutions, which along with our lifelong investment in privacy and security, make us very well prepared for the upcoming iOS14 updates.

We are excited to share our immediate solutions with our customers and partners in the coming days and weeks, as well as to continue our discussions with Apple on long term ideas to maintain the highest levels of both user privacy and user experience.

“In a challenging and unsettled time, the App Store provides enduring opportunities for entrepreneurship, health and well-being, education, and job creation, helping people adapt quickly to a changing world. We’re committed to doing even more to support and nurture the global App Store community – from one-developer shops in nearly every country to businesses that employ thousands of workers – as it continues to foster innovation, create jobs, and propel economic growth for the future.” – Tim Cook

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Oren Kaniel

Oren Kaniel is co-founder and CEO of AppsFlyer. He loves everything mobile and is a creative thinker, listener, talker, and is trying to be a blogger. Oren holds a BA in Computer Science, Cum Laude, from the Technion, and an MBA from IDC, as part of an exchange with the Wharton Business School.

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