Jonathan Glover

IOS 14.5 Update and the Ramifications for Facebook Advertisers

2021 has had some seismic changes for the digital marketing sphere, particularly the Facebook and Instagram platforms. As has been the trend for a number of years, consumers are demanding greater control of their personal data.

Facebook in the past used massive amounts of people’s data to create profiles of its users and serve more targeted ads to those on the Facebook platforms. In this way, Facebook connected consumers and advertisers seamlessly and efficiently via its sophisticated algorithms.

In late 2020 Apple announced that in early 2021 there would be an update to its IOS software. The update required app developers to automatically opt users out of data tracking, and app developers now needed to ask users for permission to track their data. This opt-in method comprises an ATT (App Tracking Transparency) popup which asks the user if the app can track the user’s data. Facebook’s early research showed that 50% to 70% of users would opt out of tracking if given the option. Further, app developers only have one line on the ATT to motivate why the user should allow them to track data.

The Apple Update was delayed a number of times and eventually, in April 2021 the IOS 14.5 update was rolled out and all apps were required to implement ATT.

The IOS 14.5 update had a drastic impact on the amount of data Facebook can gather from users. And consequently, the profiles of users that Facebook can produce has much fewer data points. Exactly how many data points are now available to Facebook is not immediately clear. It is pretty universally accepted that even if someone opts out of tracking Facebook will still receive 1 conversion event that that user performs, whether that is page view or purchase. So it’s unlikely that Facebook performs zero conversion event tracking on users who have opted out of tracking. Obviously, if the user opts into tracking then Facebook will receive all the data points.

In essence, the IOS update and its implications comes down to first-party data as opposed to third-party data. First-party data is data collected directly from a user, so this would be an email address you collected from an opt-in. Third-party data would be data Facebook collected about a user on someone else’s website, e.g., a landing page view on

Here are a few practical examples of first- and third-party data.

First-party Data

First-party data includes things like:

Collecting the FBCLID (Facebook Click ID) of someone who clicked an ad and then purchased a product on your website.

Or, collecting the Facebook profile ID of someone visiting a specific page on your website

Third-party Data

This includes things like Facebook recording a purchase conversion through a Facebook pixel and then using this data to build a profile about the user.

As you can see from the above, the inability to collect third-party data severely limits the amount of data Facebook can collect from users. Whereas in the past Facebook would build a profile of all the websites you visit, it can now only do this with users who have opted in to tracking or in certain instances where websites send first-party data back to Facebook (more on this later).

Facebook has implemented three changes in an attempt to mitigate Apple’s IOS update:

  1. Domain verification: Facebook now requires that if you want to run consideration or conversion ads, the domain you send your traffic to needs to be verified as yours. A unique domain can only be verified by one business manager, although you can share domains between business managers. Domain verification is done so that Facebook can be sure that the data you are collecting on users is in fact first-party data. Here is a link on how to perform domain verification.
  2. Rank Conversion events: Because Facebook can only receive one conversion event for users who have opted out of tracking, Facebook needs to know which particular conversion event is most important to your company. For example, if you track four conversion events in your sales funnel (for example: View Content, Add to Cart, Initiate Checkout and Purchase) the most important conversion to you would be purchase. You would not want Facebook to send you a view content conversion while neglecting to send you a purchase conversion. Here is a link on how to rank your conversion events.
  3. Conversion API: Facebook has for a while allowed you to send your server-side data (First-party data) back to Facebook so that it can connect this conversion data with your ads campaigns to give a fuller picture of how a campaign is performing. This has become vitally important in a post-IOS 14.5 world because this server-side data provides a secondary method of Facebook picking up conversion data, in cases where the pixel misses the data because of tracking opt-outs. More on the conversion API here.

What does all of this mean?

There are two basic ramifications of the above, and one leads on from the other.

First, Facebook is no longer able to collect data on its users with impunity and as such, it can not build robust behavior profiles. Sorry to say but the days of free rides on the coattails of the Facebook algorithm are over. This brings us to the second point, the resurrection of classic Marketing Principles (here is a quick link to writing clearly if you are interested).

Digital marketers can no longer afford to be lazy marketers relying on the immense power of Facebook’s data. We have to have great copy, scroll-stopping graphics and video, and a powerful offer. The glory days of Facebook marketing are not over but the easy days may be. The cream will rise to the top and those marketers who do the fundamentals well will continue to see success on the incredible platform that is Facebook.

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