Apple’s Lockdown Mode Could Be A Preview Of Protection To Come

The Sell Sider” is a column written by the sell side of the digital media community.

Today’s column is written by Gavin Dunaway, product marketing lead at The Media Trust

While the ad tech world is still reeling over news that Apple is building out a DSP, the company made an announcement that might have digital advertising ramifications sooner.

The forthcoming iOS 16, iPadOS 16 and macOS Ventura software updates introduce Lockdown Mode, a “groundbreaking security capability” that protects users from sophisticated digital threats like “highly targeted cyberattacks from private companies developing state-sponsored mercenary spyware.”

But will large groups of Apple users embrace Lockdown Mode to ward off persistent digital tracking and threats (cough, cough – malware)? Will publishers and ad platforms suddenly find their iPhone, iPad, and Mac impressions have fallen off a cliff because Lockdown Mode is disabling ads?

While Lockdown Mode can protect consumers from illicit activity and unwanted tracking, it’s designed for a specific group of individuals that’s vulnerable to attacks. Plus, it can impact functionality in a way that most users won’t tolerate. What should worry the advertising industry, however, is the potential for Apple to make a more mainstream version of the new feature.

Drastic measures for big targets

Lockdown Mode seems to be a direct response to the NSO Group’s Pegasus cyber-spying software, used by state actors to snoop on political dissidents, activists and even government officials. Aptly described as “extreme, optional protection,” Lockdown Mode shores up existing Apple device and software security by laying down strict limits on many device and software functions:

  • To prevent potential user tracking, Complex JavaScript routines – WebAssembly, MP3 Playback, JPEG 2000 and PDF Viewer – are halted unless a site is excluded from Lockdown protections.
  • Attachments in messaging are blocked, and link previews are disabled.
  • Wired connections with…