Do Consumers Care About Privacy Changes?

Much digital ink has already been spilled about the coming privacy changes on Chrome and through your mobile device. But one giant question that was nearly impossible to answer was how consumers would react. People say that they care about their privacy, but do they care enough to actually do anything about it? If, given the opportunity, would they take action and opt out? 

There is an episode of “Parks and Recreation” in season 3, which Director Ron Swanson calls over April, his assistant, with a question. He is at his computer and wonders why there is a pop-up ad that knows his name. April proceeds to explain cookies for him, and in typical Ron Swanson fashion — well, see for yourself.

As iOS 14.5 officially hit in late April, we’ve been starting to see some early returns on the opt-out question. A new Ad Age-Harris poll seems to suggest that “while consumers are concerned about data collection, most aren’t taking steps to actively avoid it.” The poll goes on to say that those users who have updated to 14.5 are more likely to be willing to share data than those on previous iOS versions.  

So, not pulling a Ron Swanson? 

Not so fast. 

Flurry Analytics has been tracking the daily opt-in and opt-out rates since the rollout, and has found that only 4 percent of daily users in the United States are allowing apps access to their IDFA tag. This figure is based on a sample of 2.5m daily users. As you will remember, having access to this tag is what allows advertisers to offer more personalization within their creative. 

Kelly Bartell, Executive Creative Director — and newest Cicerone — put it best when she said: 

It’s fascinating that humans desperately want customized ads. I mean who hasn’t wished out loud for something, and then secretly hoped for it to be delivered via the perfect Instagram ad? But there’s something that stops us from saying yes to this. Hypothesis: a control issue.”

Maybe we are all Ron Swanson after all.

When All Else Fails, Deploy Scare Tactics
It has been interesting to track how various platforms that rely heavily on App Tracking to fuel their advertising targeting efforts are messaging to the broader population. In the months between the announcement of App Tracking Transparency (ATT) efforts, Facebook took the stance that ATT implementation would harm the small businesses that rely on the platform’s audience-targeting capabilities by making their advertising dollars less effective. I initially wrote about this stance in early February, in my iOS 14.5 primer, found here

Since the roll out last week, Facebook and Instagram are now employing scare tactics to encourage users not to switch off data tracking, as seen below.

image from Social Media Today article

Asking users to keep data sharing in place to “help Keep Facebook/Instagram free of charge” is quite the veiled, if ultimately empty, threat. 

Facebook will never adopt a paid model. Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly said that they would remain free, including during testimony to Congress in 2018. Beyond simple lip service, having a robust user base is a core element of the Facebook business model. 

Our CEO Andrew Eklund has a slightly different opinion: 

“I wish more brands would have been in front of this. I like that [Facebook] is telling the consumer what’s at risk. It’s honest. Plus, the consumer simply doesn’t know any better.”

He’s right. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard of friends or family signing a petition that has gone viral, demanding that Facebook remain free. So elevating this CTA could very well convince someone to keep data tracking active, even if it is disingenuous. 

So, Do Consumers Care? 
It is still too early to tell. Early indicators are just that: early. This is why we are seeing competing opinions on how this is breaking and what the long-term impacts are. Thus far, it seems that consumers aren’t interested in being tracked. But we will know more in the coming weeks and months as the sample size grows larger. 

Ultimately, we believe that giving consumers control over how their data is being used is a good thing. It is just too bad that the industry has done such a lackluster job in explaining to the general public what is happening and why it matters. 

Whatever happens next, the Atlas team at Ciceron will be there as a trusted guide to help you navigate through all the changes.