Core Functions Missing From SKAdNetwork

Apple’s iOS 14 is probably the most privacy-safe mobile operating system on the planet. But a major part of the planned functionality was delayed until 2021. At the time, Apple said the reason was that mobile developers weren’t ready yet.

As it turns out, that might not be true.

And Apple has now admitted that its own advertising attribution software has two major bugs.

The Apple software in question is an attribution framework called SKAdNetwork. I consult with a number of mobile marketing companies, and I’ve been hearing for weeks that major mobile ad networks have been processing hundreds of thousands of SKAdNetwork postbacks that don’t appear to have all required information, and there’s been increasing internal consternation about it.

Listen to this post on the TechFirst podcast:

When Apple delayed full implementation of iOS 14’s privacy protections until some time in 2021, this is what the company said:

“To give developers time to make necessary changes, apps will be required to obtain permission to track users starting early next year.” (Emphasis added.)

Just a couple days ago, however, this appeared in the iOS and iPadOS 14 software release notes:

“SKAdNetwork Known Issues: The source-app-id and conversion-value parameter values aren’t available in the version 2 install validation postback that the device sends to your ad network’s registered postback URL.”

In other words, Apple’s software isn’t working.

To understand what’s going on here, you’ll need a bit of background.

When developers market apps, they want to know what campaigns are working. Mobile attribution services give them that insight using an Apple-created identifier for devices called IDFA, which until now has been freely available unless iPhone and iPad owners intentionally opt out in a fairly obscure system setting. Ad networks can see this device ID, however, and an attribution service can connect that visibility with the IDFA of a device that just completed an app install. In other words, an IDFA connects the dots for marketers on ads that were successful —…