Facebook blames Apple's iOS 14 for screwing up its ad business

Facebook has warned that Apple's iOS 14 will "severely impact" its advertising business, with the upcoming changes to the iPhone software blamed for "limited" ability to target ads. Among numerous functionality changes announced at WWDC 2020 earlier this year, iOS 14 will revamp how individual iPhones report to advertisers, as well as making some existing privacy features more visible to users. It'll also require app-makers to get permission before collection devices' unique ID codes.

Until now, iOS has used what's known as an Identification for Advertisers, or IDFA, code for each device. That can be collected by advertisers, and then used to personalize the promotions they show to users, as well as track campaigns across different sites.

It's been particularly useful for big ad providers like Facebook, which uses IDFA for its Audience Network advertising platform. That offers developers a way to better target the adverts they deliver, in addition to measuring how well campaigns are working. iOS 14 is currently in public beta, but will be released generally later in the year.

That, Facebook said today, presents a significant problem for Audience Network and its users. "Like all ad networks on iOS 14, advertiser ability to accurately target and measure their campaigns on Audience Network will be impacted," the company warns, "and as a result publishers should expect their ability to effectively monetize on Audience Network to decrease."

App-makers will need to get opt-in permission from users to gather IDFA, with their software disclosing that it's being gathered. Facebook has decided that it will now no longer be collecting IDFA on its own apps on iOS 14 devices. It's also releasing a new version of its SDK, that will limit the data collected on iOS 14 devices.

"Ultimately," Facebook warns, "despite our best efforts, Apple's updates may render Audience Network so ineffective on iOS 14 that it may not make sense to offer it on iOS 14."

Although the full extent of the impact is unclear, Facebook suggests that its testing indicates more than a 50-percent dip in publisher revenue through Audience Network when mobile ad personalization was deactivated. Ironically, Facebook itself likely won't see too great an impact on its advertising revenues. That's likely a side-effect of Facebook having plenty of access to individual user data through their logged-in Facebook, Instagram, and other profiles, which third-party companies won't get access to.

As for what users will see, if you disable IDFA you might not get any Audience Network-served ads on your iPhone running iOS 14, or you may see adverts that's less relevant.

The announcement comes as Apple faces increasing criticism around its App Store policies, with Epic Games leading a revolt over in-app purchases and the so-called "Apple Tax" that the Cupertino firm applies to developer revenues. Epic announced today that, due to Fortnite being pulled from the App Store, iOS players won't get to participate in Fortnite Chapter 2, Season 4. That's expected to kick off imminently.