There is a lot to cover when it comes to data privacy. The Facebook/Apple battle has gotten a lot of press recently, but what’s happening isn’t exactly new. It all started when we found out about all the data Cambridge Analytica took from Facebook. Turns out, you leave quite the trail of data and personally identifiable information when you peruse Facebook and the interwebs as a whole. So a couple years ago some of the big tech firms and some government agencies decided to crack down on it and help remove the cookie trail as it were.
Cookies are small pieces of data stored in a database inside of your browser — like a username and password — that are used to identify your computer as you. Data stored in a cookie is created by websites upon your connection. There’s first party cookies, data that the owner of a website uses to help create a more personalized experience on their website. And then there’s 3rd party cookies, data the companies like Facebook and Google collect from other websites to help them target users for advertising.
Back in 2018 Apple introduced ITP, Intelligent Tracking Protection which limited the amount of time a cookie could be saved on Safari browsers. It went from 28 days to 7 to 24 hours to none over the last several years. This means that when people surf the interwebs on their iphones or use the default browser on their Mac, their information doesn’t track back to Google or Facebook so there’s no attribution of that user to a specific form of advertising or “source” of the user. If I am using Safari on my phone and I visit a builder’s site then jump to my desktop computer using chrome, instead of being counted as one person who’s visited your site twice in one day, I’m counted as two distinct users. Major bummer for us data nerds who like to see how people use websites across devices.
So now that Apple has squashed a lot of that type of cross device tracking, they’re moving onto the major player on your iphone, apps. With the rollout of iOs 14, they’ll soon be implementing a new feature that will ask users if they want each app on their phone to track their movements or not. And guess what?, Facebook is an app. And most traffic on Facebook comes from its apps, specifically its iPhone app in the US. This is a big problem for them. Most revenue from Facebook comes from advertising and if they can’t provide user information from app tracking then they’re basically operating with one hand tied behind their backs.
BFD you say, Facebook is a tech behemoth and shouldn’t track us anyway! Good on Apple! We want our privacy! Not so fast! I know I make my living selling ads on Facebook and all, but personally, I really enjoy the fact that the ads that I see in my newsfeed and on other websites have value to me and aren’t just randomly placed junk that I have no interest in. Also, Apple isn’t quite so virtuous in this quest to give users privacy. One of the big ways Apple makes money is off their app store. They have ads there, and they also take a piece of any sale made inside the apps in their app store. Do you play Candy Crush? Do you buy more of the coins and whatnot to help you complete levels? Apple makes money off those sales. Do you play Candy Crush and not pay for things but endure the ads that come in between levels? Without the apps ability to provide targeted ads (on which a surprising number of people actually click and from which Candy Crush makes money so that it can provide the app for free), Candy Crush might be forced to charge for it’s app instead of it being free, which in turn generates even more money for Apple. (It wouldn’t surprise me if Apple took a share of the ad revenue from apps TBH)
You see, data privacy is important, but so is tracking. In addition to taking out full page ads in newspapers and engaging in a hard core PR campaign, has also developed some tools to work around these issues. The main one is called Conversion API. It moves tracking to a server instead of having it be on the website. It’s actually pretty cool, except for the part where you need a developer to make it happen. In the olden days, installing the Facebook Pixel with event tracking was as simple as copying and pasting some code onto your site. Almost anyone could do it, no developer needed. That’s not the case for Conversion API. This is another way in which the change can negatively affect businesses. Small businesses who don’t have a developer at their disposal, won’t be able to use it and will lose the ability to run conversion campaigns on Facebook, arguably the most effective way to advertise in the Facebook ecosystem.
And this isn’t the only change that’s happening with regard to data privacy. Last July CCPA, the California Consumer Privacy Act, went into effect. Have you noticed over the last year or so that when you visit certain websites you have to check an “I accept” box? That’s CCPA. The purpose is to get a user to acknowledge that there are cookies on the website and the website is using them to track a user’s activity. It’s specific to California and specifically to where the business is being transacted. It is not about where the user is or where the company is, it’s about where the business happens. For builders this means you could be headquartered in Maryland but build in California, and you’d need to have this on your website. If however, you are based in California but only build in Maryland, you don’t need it.
Now imagine if every state has a CCPA. You’d have to have an “I accept” button for every state in which you build homes. That’s a lot of “I accept”ing. The hope is that something similar to a GDPR would take place as opposed to each state creating their own list of rules and regulations as it pertains to data privacy and tracking.
In the meantime, your trusty ONeil web development and marketing team are busy finding ways to stay on top of our game. We suggest working doubly hard to grow your own lists in your CRM and for emails. These can be used to offset data loss by uploading them to Facebook and will help build a more thorough buyer profile that can be used for targeting purposes in things like external eblasts.