Clash of the Tech Titans 2: Facebook’s Solution to the iOS14 Privacy Requirements

Re-published with iOS 14.5 launch. Original publish date was February 26, 2021.

Facebook is making numerous updates to their ad-platform in order to prepare for the changes created by Apple’s iOS14 requirements. One feature particularly of concern that Apple has announced, is the roll-out of a ‘Tracking Transparency Prompt,’ which will soon greet all users as they open up an app on their iOS device. 

Jake Coldren wrote a primer on the iOS14 changes here if you need a refresher. 

As you will recall, this prompt will force all apps to ask users for permissions to track them across 3rd party apps and websites. If a user decides to opt-in, they’re giving the app (in this case, Facebook) permission to track their actions on their website and across other 3rd party apps. Should a user decide to opt-out, the data shared will be significantly reduced, limiting the platform’s ability to measure, attribute, and optimize ads effectively. With some estimates putting the percentage of people choosing to opt-out as high as 80 percent, you can understand why this feature is causing a major panic. 

Fortunately, Facebook has unveiled the tools ‘Aggregated Event Measurement’ and ‘Conversions API’ to help provide advertisers a clearer picture of their performance with the new iOS14 requirements in place. While these tools won’t completely off-set the impact on reporting, optimization, and measurement, they will be useful in helping advertisers continue to drive meaningful results and actions from ads via Facebook/Instagram.

Aggregated Event Measurement

As a result of Apple’s new protocol, restricting data flow between apps and websites, Facebook developed their own solution that will allow them to abide by Apple’s requirements, yet still be able to report on valuable actions taken by users. Facebook’s solution is called Aggregated Event Measurement (AEM).

Users who opt-in to the forthcoming app-tracking transparency prompt will allow platforms like Facebook and Instagram to track/attribute more of that user’s engagement with ads. However, if a user decides to opt-out of the prompt, the data that can be shared between Facebook and other apps would then be severely restricted. Data wouldn’t be cut-off, but a lot of the valuable information advertisers had previously been able to collect would be scaled back dramatically to just a few key actions.

Before these changes began rolling out, advertisers could track dozens of standard and custom conversions on the platform, allowing for numerous opportunities to measure and optimize ads. With AEM, Facebook will be limiting advertisers to a total of 8 events per domain, which will also need to be ranked in terms of importance. If a user chooses to opt-out, the highest- ranked event completed by that user will be reported back to the platform. 

Conversions API

All advertisers who rely on the Facebook pixel to track, optimize, and measure the effectiveness of their ads will be forced to adopt the AEM structure, but another resource, ‘Conversions API,’ is also worth considering. The Facebook Conversions API has been around for a few years, but its value has become more apparent as the changes in data usage have evolved. Essentially, it’s a connection directly from your website server to Facebook’s. 

The API connection will allow advertisers to share key web and offline events, or customer actions that may have been lost due to the data restriction. It’s not a replacement for the Facebook pixel; rather, it works in conjunction with the pixel in order to fill in the gaps of data lost due to the changes. 

The additional information the API provides would impact numerous facets of the ad platform, including but not limited to more relevant custom/lookalike audiences, better retargeting, improved dynamic ads, or a more accurate return on ad spend. Since the conversions API doesn’t use cookies, web browser settings will not impact your ability to send data from any customers who have provided you with the necessary consents.

What Are My Next Steps?

Neither the API nor Facebook’s AEM solution are perfect, but they do go a long way in addressing both privacy concerns and solving for the optimization needs that come with Apple’s rollout of the Tracking Transparency Prompt. When the policy rolls out, we also anticipate a period of transition as brands and advertisers wrap their heads around the changes. But there are some early first steps you can take to get ahead of these changes. 

Verifying your domain within your Facebook business manager and getting your pixel framework (and other Facebook assets) under control are important first steps. Housekeeping for these items can take time, especially if you’re unclear who has the proper permissions or access to complete these tasks. 

Additionally, setting up the Conversions API may lead to additional reviews of your compliance obligations under your data regulation laws. So before you dive in, it will be important to get alignment and buy-in from key stakeholders and decision makers. Setup will also likely require support from your development team.
If you are interested in learning more, we have an upcoming Coffee Break on March 4th, where I’ll be discussing this topic. I encourage you to sign up here, and bring whatever questions you have. I’ll be happy to answer them during the session.