Is Apple solving the privacy and convenience puzzle?

Apple appears to be making significant progress in crafting convenience and useful services while preserving user privacy, even in its ads network

Apple, App Store, iAds, Ads, Search Ads, Diferential privacy, iOS, iOS 11
Adam Patrick Murray

When Apple in 2016 announced its interest in using "differential privacy" to gather useful information while preserving user privacy, critics panned the company for still somehow being “behind” other firms who focus less on privacy.

Things have moved on

This was what critics were saying: By insisting on preserving user privacy, Apple leaves itself unable to mine data to gain deeply useful insights and deliver useful services.

That was then.

One year on, and we can see Apple’s approach: While continuing to know as little as possible about any individual’s use of their device, it is figuring out how to create useful and actionable services.

It does this through use of technologies such as differential privacy, through the development of new data modelling techniques, and by ensuring that where personal information is used, the processing of that information takes place on the device.

That way it can provide the convenience and the services, while still preserving the privacy of its customers.

Look at the ads

Apple has clearly come a long way with this approach to privacy, as it now has a good response to marketing and advertising firms, said Apple’s vice president of Advertising Platforms, Todd Teresi.

Apple’s ads chief was speaking at Postback, TUNE’s annual mobile marketing event.

You can see what he had to say in the video, but among other things he promised to work closely with TUNE to make app install data more accurate.

That’s not all: “Apple confirmed they will be working to provide metrics like these, while maintaining a privacy-centric approach,” TUNE explained.

That’s critical, you see, because it means Apple is figuring out how to deliver the services and convenience other less privacy-conscious firms provide, including advertising metrics.

This is good news for customers—but may also be good news for Apple’s ads platform, based on what used to be iAds and now pretty much focused on Search ads through the App Store.

Apple had a difficult time with iAds. Advertisers were reluctant to engage with the platform because Apple was not prepared to share private data about customers—which is a good thing.

A new approach to data and privacy

Teresi’s conversation at TUNE shows how far Apple has gone in developing a new approach—based, I imagine, on its other work in privacy—that should enable marketing and ads firms to get some of the data they want, but not at the expense of your personal privacy.

The approach clearly works. Apple says that 50 percent of users who click on search ads they find on the App Store will then download an app. That’s a scarily high percentage! And it’s going to climb.

iOS 11 introduces a new look to the App Store. Not only is it becoming more information-rich, but it will feature editorially controlled lists, articles and other information designed to make the store a more interesting space.

That’s bound to have a direct impact on Apple’s search ads business, but it will also deliver a range of other interesting insights for developers, along with a good way to reach new audiences.

What next: Convenience and privacy

However, underpinning the data Apple can share with advertisers—as well as the services it provides people who use its products—services are all now being built around core models designed to provide convenience, but not at the cost of your personal privacy.

The question must be, how will Apple extend the scope of its services on these core models? And how will developers extend the capabilities of its solutions using new tools, such as CoreML?

User data

Teresi revealed some interesting stats developers may want to learn:

  • 15%-20% of iOS users opt out of ads tracking, so Apple won’t share their info.
  • 90% of apps downloaded as a result of search ads are downloaded immediately.
  • Re-downloads account for around 15% of installs.

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Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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