Snap explored how it can get around the new privacy rules for iPhones, to an extent that could spark Apple’s ire, according to several people familiar with the situation.
Apple is expected to introduce its privacy rules in the coming weeks, prohibiting apps from collecting data about iPhone users without their express consent.
Advertisers and app developers have warned the changes will result in a multibillion-dollar impact on the mobile advertising industry, as most iPhone users are likely to refuse to be tracked.
But Snap, which owns the Snapchat messaging app, is the largest U.S. tech company to date to emerge with plans that several experts say would break Apple’s rules.
According to recent internal documents seen by the Financial Times, Snap wanted to collect data from companies that analyze whether people have responded to advertising campaigns, including aggregate IP addresses, labels that identify devices connected to the Internet.
She was hoping to be able to take that data and combine it with information she has about her own users to identify and track them, using a technique called “probabilistic matching,” according to several people familiar with her plans.
After being contacted by the FT about its plans, Snap admitted that it had run a probabilistic matching program for several months to test the impact of Apple’s new policies, but said it always had the intention to shut down the program after Apple introduces its changes, as such. system would not comply.
“We support and will follow Apple’s next guidelines because we’ve always believed that advertising should respect consumer privacy,” Snap said.
“We are currently designing a range of privacy-focused solutions, both short and long term, to ensure we deliver best-in-class deals to our partners and a privacy-focused experience for our community.
Going forward, Snap acknowledged that it was not allowed to track individual users, but like many ad technology companies, it suggested that collecting data on “cohorts” of users would not violate the rules. Several experts disagreed, saying no data should be collected on iPhone users who have chosen not to be tracked.
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Apple declined to comment but emphasized its Strategies who tell developers, “You cannot use analytics software in your app to collect and send data from the device to a third party.” In addition, neither you nor your app will use a permanent device-based identifier, or any data derived from it, for the purposes of unique device identification. ”
But the success of Apple’s new policies will likely hinge on its ability to uncover and shut down the agile workarounds designed by mobile developers and advertisers.
“To some it will look like the zombie apocalypse, but you can’t change it, so grab a gun and jump into the Winnebago,” said Jayne Peressini, mobile marketing expert.
Apple on Thursday began warning developers against probabilistic matching and sending out letters saying they should remove any code “that supports this feature.”
When Chinese developers came up with their own iPhone identification system called CAID last month and tried to implement it in their apps, Apple issued prohibition notices and warned violators they had. 14 days to comply before Apple kicked them out of the App Store.
Although Facebook and Google are affected by the new rules, they keep more proprietary data and are able to track users between the suite of apps they own.
According to several people familiar with Snap’s thinking, this may have prompted the small business to try teaming up with MMPs or mobile measurement partners, some of whom have suggested probabilistic matching as a workaround. Some of those who have openly supported the practice include AppsFlyer, a $ 2 billion Salesforce-backed group, and Adjust, a rival that AppLovin bought in February for $ 1 billion.
AppsFlyer’s chief executive Oren Kaniel told the FT that his company recently ditched probabilistic matching, acknowledging it would not be allowed.
But AppsFlyer’s website is still ad technique and Kaniel said he understands that Apple’s new privacy prompt “isn’t about or limiting data collection, but tracking as defined by Apple.” He added that no individual user data was tracked, stating, “We only provide data in an aggregate fashion.”
Adjust, who has publicly told clients he can take advantage of “proprietary technology” to perform probabilistic matching with 95% accuracy, declined to comment.