What is App Tracking Transparency (ATT)?

Glossary What is App Tracking Transparency (ATT)?

App Tracking Transparency (ATT) definition

App Tracking Transparency (ATT) is Apple’s user privacy framework. It requires apps on iOS to request user permission-via a pop-up prompt-to access the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA) to track the user/the device. ATT was enforced with Apple’s iOS 14.5 update in April 2021 to address growing concerns about how much user data app developers could leverage to track and target users.

Protecting user data and prioritizing privacy is top of mind for users and maximizing ATT consent rates is a critical part of every app developer and marketer’s iOS strategy. While we are entering the next-generation era of attribution and measurement, the full-visibility insights that can be gained from opted-in, first party data are critical to informing strategic direction regarding conversion value mapping. This data also provides machine learning algorithms with the basis required to perform the most accurate predictive analytics.

Let’s take a look at how ATT has shaken up the mobile advertising industry, what Apple’s ATT policy is and what “allow app tracking” means.

How does App Tracking Transparency work and what does it look like?

App Tracking Transparency’s introduction has fundamentally changed the mobile advertising industry. Before ATT, app developers and marketers could access user-level data on iOS for attribution via the IDFA by default. This supply of data for attribution and measurement was integral for information on user interests, demographics, and in-app behavior. Device-level data shaped the basis of targeted ads and painted a clear picture regarding campaign and channel performance, thereby enabling impactful, fast, and data-driven campaign optimization and budget allocation.

App Tracking Transparency (ATT) pop up

How does the App Tracking Transparency opt-in work?

In order to gain access to the IDFA of a device, apps are required to request permission to ‘Allow Tracking’ via a prompt. Until the user selects ‘Allow Tracking,’ the app will not be able to access the IDFA as the default setting is akin to the ‘Ask App Not to Track’ option. There are a few other considerations to keep in mind:

  • Historical opt-outs: If a user opted out of personalized advertising under Apple’s previous Limit Ad Tracking (LAT) model, they will now be automatically classified as opted-out within the ATT framework.
  • Settings prevent prompts: To receive the ATT prompt in the first place, users must have ‘Allow Apps to Request to Track’ switched on in their privacy settings. This is currently switched on by default.
  • Dual opt-ins: If the user’s data will facilitate advertising on another app, they must opt in twice: Once from the advertiser and once from the publisher.

Due to the limitations of the ATT prompt itself, we recommend that advertisers also use a pre-permission prompt to provide users with a more persuasive and detailed explanation of the value that opting in can bring to their user experience in-app.

How does App Tracking Transparency impact mobile advertisers?

Apple’s ATT transformed the mobile advertising ecosystem. From marketers and advertisers to developers and ad networks, the way measurement and attribution are approached on iOS had to be completely rethought. ATT also marked the first significant step in a continued march toward user privacy for Apple and the industry broadly. Apple has since rolled out multiple additional privacy-driven updates, such as the privacy manifests that came with iOS 17, and Google’s equivalent framework, Privacy Sandbox on Android, is due for full release very soon.

Long-held and largely automated practices for iOS advertising strategies, user acquisition campaigns, and measurement were turned on their head. The mobile marketing industry was sent into overdrive and pushed to develop new strategies and approaches to boost opt-in rates and adopt solutions to enable successful campaign measurement on iOS.

Despite the challenges, the results of the arduous and strategic work we’ve put in as an industry are demonstrated in the continually increasing opt-in rates and the cutting-edge, privacy-centric technologies we’ve developed to gain campaign insights from aggregated data.

Working with Apple’s SKAdNetwork (SKAN)

While your approach to gaining the highest percentage of ATT opt-ins is a crucial basis for your iOS strategy, working with SKAdNetwork (SKAN) is essential to attribution and success post-iOS 14.5. SKAN is Apple’s own attribution framework, which provides app developers with postbacks containing conversion values. As Apple performs the attribution themselves, the role of the MMP/Adjust is to enable marketers to put the pieces together so they can continue to optimize campaigns and drive growth on iOS.

Despite the differences between SKAN 3 and SKAN 4, the key to working with SKAN is developing a conversion value strategy that leverages all possible data points available. Making the most of SKAN 3 lies within its 24-hour send schedule for post-install postbacks. If your key events take place within the 24-hour period, fantastic, if they don’t, identifying the user behaviors and events that occur within the first 24-hours post-install that are indicative of key events and lifetime value (LTV) later in the user journey is the essential strategic approach to take. Use the granular data you have from opted-in users to help predict the behavior of the larger, aggregated group.

SKAN 4 works differently. With three postback windows and a mix of fine and coarse conversion values, it’s possible to measure up to 35 days post install—a huge increase. Working with these three measurement windows requires a more detailed, holistic strategy and approach to conversion values, where you test engagement signals, confirm them, and track LTV.

skan 4 measurement windows

You can learn more about this in our comprehensive guide to mastering SKAN 4, created in partnership with TikTok.

How to increase App Tracking Transparency opt-in rates

While app marketers understand how beneficial user-level data is, many users will not. You’ll have one chance to display the ATT prompt, so take a look at our key recommendations for getting the opt-in by prioritizing education and transparency.

  1. Gain trust with the pre-permission prompt: You have full control over this optional, initial screen’s design and copy. Take advantage of this opportunity to highlight the benefits of opting-in, i.e. less and more useful ads.
att opt in pop-up
  1. Customize second string ATT text: Apple provides a predetermined App Tracking Transparency prompt, but you can customize the text in the second string. This message needs to be concise and powerful. Answer the user question, “What’s in it for me?”
  2. Fine tune your timing: Choose a time for the pop-up that is least disruptive, when you’ve had the chance to prove the value of your app, or when user satisfaction with the app should be at its highest.

Adjust, ATT, and measurement on iOS and SKAN

Developed closely with our partners, clients, and Apple, our iOS & SKAN solutions make strategic conversion value mapping smart, easy, and effective. SKAN Analytics in Datascape also ensures you never miss a beat thanks to real-time reporting, campaign visualization, and always-up-to-date spend data.

Creating a robust conversion value scheme is essential, but we also encourage clients to incorporate an ATT-driven approach to their UX, designing their strategy to achieve the highest possible opt-in rate. The better you are at getting the opt-in, the better your entire iOS analysis and campaign optimization journey will be.

As the industry continues down a path of more robust privacy frameworks and regulations—from Apple’s ATT and Google’s Privacy Sandbox and beyond—Adjust is committed to continued investment in and development of next-generation solutions that align with this privacy-centric market evolution. It’s our goal to meet client needs and empower scalable growth for app marketers while ensuring data privacy is center stage at every step.

Want to learn more about our AI-powered measurement and analytics solutions? Request a demo today.

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