How iOS 14.5 affects Online Community & Community Building

Consent is everything— What community builders can learn from iOS 14.5 and the #MeToo movement

If you pore through some of the recent articles about the new iOS 14.5, you’ll learn quite a bit. At least I did, including what new updates come with iOS 14.5 (and 14.5.1), what app tracking transparency is (and how we’ve kinda had it all along, only we didn’t know—more on this later), and why Facebook is less than enthused about the iOS 14.5 app-tracking update (more on this later, too).

Discussed within each iOS 14.5 article was something we’ve finally (painfully) all been made more aware of thanks to the #MeToo movement. That something is consent.

Sure, the majority of these iOS 14.5 articles are talking about consent as it relates to data privacy and knowing (in a clear, direct, unmissable way) that you do indeed have the choice to either opt in or opt out of app tracking. But in reading through these monologues about consent as it relates to iOS 14.5 and app tracking, I couldn’t help but think about the larger human context and implications of:

  1. Honoring and supporting consent in all aspects of our lives, and
  2. The responsibility we have to one another—whether we’re talking human to human, B2B, or B2C—to make sure that consent not only exists in a given relationship but more importantly that we know it exists. Because to be unaware of the fact that you have a choice, to begin with, is equatable to not having a choice at all.

The option to choose needs to be explicit out the gate, otherwise, it’s about optics and covering bases. See, you’ve always had the choice—it was always right there, inside your preferences, inside the privacy dropdown, in the darkest recesses of your settings tab…

Now, I am not comparing data privacy and consent as it relates to app tracking transparency to consent within the #MeToo movement. I am, however, speaking to the importance of consent (and knowledge of choice) in everything we do. Including building online communities. 

It’s not just enough, as a community builder, to give your members a choice. You need to ensure your community members explicitly know that they have the option to say yes or no. Without feeling pressured or like they’re going to miss out or be ostracized if they choose to opt out. If they say no.

Community members also need to know that they can retract or withdraw their consent (and that it’s ok to do so!). We are allowed to change our minds about how we feel about any given thing, at any given time. Consent is not a one-time deal, it’s an ongoing conversation.

Content & consent—swap the ‘t’ for an ‘s’ and you get something as equally important to building authentic community

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Know how we keep saying that content is queen? Well, if content is queen (she is), then consent is integral to the kind of queendom (community) she creates. Without good content, there is no community. Without consent, an element of authenticity is left out and the community relationships we build are fundamentally flawed. In a very mutual-respect-among-humans kind of way.

What does the iOS 14.5 update mean for community, consent, and privacy?

Now that we’ve got consent on the brain (always), let’s talk about what the iOS 14.5 update means for your Mobilize community and online communities at large. If you haven’t already guessed, it has a lot to do with consent. But how, precisely?

Specifically speaking, the iOS 14.5 update doesn’t mean anything in regards to how Mobilize already operates or how you and your Mobilize community members engage with one another—as part of the Mobilize community, you can rejoice in the fact that your community members need to consent (and know this!) before joining your digital hamlet, and you (not the platform!) own your data.

The Mobilize platform is private and paid for by your organization, NOT advertisers with outside interests or third-party data brokers (as this Fast Company article reminds us, our “personal data is routinely bought and sold by dozens, possibly hundreds, of companies”). This means your community members get to decide both how and when they want to interact and engage. And you get to own the intelligent data and insights you obtain from your community.

Without patting ourselves too much on the back for being ahead of the data privacy curve, we’re going to go ahead and say: Mobilize FTW! After all, we do…

“build custom Community Health Reports that shed light on insights, trends, opportunities for improvement, benchmarking and how you’re performing against your business goals.”

Most importantly for your members is that they are given the option to consent and, are aware of this option (instead of opt-in/out toggles being buried somewhere deep within the app, Mobilize offers a settings tab that’s simple, straightforward, and easy to navigate—which translates to consent being visible, known, and up front).

iOS 14.5 and other online communities

As far as other online community platforms go (ahem, Facebook and LinkedIn), the new iOS 14.5 updates are having a lot more impact.

For platforms like these, which have basically hidden the option to consent to tracking and data use for all of time up until now, and which sell your data to any number of third-party data brokers (see the long, nonexhaustive list in the article mentioned above), the potential impacts of the iOS 14.5 app tracking transparency feature are huge.

While the app tracking transparency feature is a big win for community members (consumers) of these platforms, it’s also looking to be a relatively big blow to the platforms themselves. Why? Mainly because it will supposedly make it more difficult for these platforms to make millions off of your daily habits, search patterns, app use, private data, and every move.

To which we say: FINALLY, thank you.

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You have the right to be forgotten—a quick shoutout to the GDPR

Among other things, the GDPR—which stands for General Data Protection Regulation and is Europe’s new (as of 2018) data privacy and security law—states that if one of a number of conditions applies,

“the data subject shall have the right to obtain from the controller the erasure of personal data concerning him or her without undue delay and the controller shall have the obligation to erase personal data without undue delay.”

Which roughly translates to: you are a human with data-privacy rights and one of them is the right to be forgotten. What does this mean for communities and app tracking transparency? Now that it’s required to ask, explicitly and up front, if an individual gives their consent to app tracking, people can revoke such permissions, thus causing apps to “have some GDPR-style right-to-forget kind of work [on their hands,] deleting personal identifier data that [they’ve already] collected and stored.”

What is app tracking transparency (ATT, yeah you know me) anyhow?

Though we’ve more or less already covered app tracking transparency in this article, let’s get a real, live, working definition lodged in our minds.  According to this article from Macworld, app tracking transparency (ATT for short) is a new data privacy feature of iOS 14.5 that

“requires applications to ask permission if they want to track your activity across other companies’ apps and websites. Your Apple devices have a unique number called an “advertising identifier” that can be used to uniquely identify your device for the purposes of ad targeting and tracking. By associating this identifier with other information, app developers have been able to build incredibly detailed records of how you use your iPhone or iPad, including in other apps and across the web.”

And yes, even if you choose not to be tracked by any given app, your activity within that specific app can still be tracked. The tracking only applies to your activity outside of a company’s app, not inside. For example, “Facebook can track your activity in Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp without asking, but if it wants to know how you interact with other companies’ apps, or to track you across websites you visit, it must ask for your permission.” 😳

New iOS 14.5 app tracking transparency feature (plus how to not be guilted into giving consent if you really don’t want to!)

How does that old saying go, give apps an inch and they’ll take a mile, and sell it? That sounds about right. And if you don’t believe us, take it from Apple, who believes we (humans, community members, consumers) have indeed become the product.

If you watch Apple’s cinematic rollout of the new iOS 14.5 and app tracking transparency, you’ll hear a neutral, inviting, friendly narrator remind you about how “your information is for sale… you have become the product,” and it’s not not true.

Some apps have cross-app trackers in them that extract more data from you (dear, app users) than is needed, or necessary. This data then gets sold to third-party data brokers, who use the information to create an individualized profile for you. That profile is then used to target you with ads, as well as predict and influence your behaviors and decisions. All without your knowledge or your permission. Until now.

Something to make note of is the fact that, initially, you’re most likely not going to experience a plethora of app tracking transparency prompts. Why? According to Cult of Mac (somewhat ironically, I had to disable my own desktop ad blocker in order to read through this site’s article), ATT prompts “will only show up when a developer agrees for the feature to go live on their specific app. Until they push it live, they’re blocked from tracking users via Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers (aka IDFA).”

And when ATT does go live for a specific app? Cool, but also be on the lookout for subtly passive aggressive, guilt-trippy messaging attached to ATT prompts. For instance, as a vocal critic of the iOS 14.5 app tracking transparency feature, Facebook is using the prompt to “remind” users how cross-app data tracking helps “keep Facebook free of charge.”

Even with the new iOS 14.5 app tracking transparency feature, there’s always more than one way to peel a banana

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Despite the new iOS ATT feature, there are still a number of other ways for ad-tech companies to follow and track your moves beyond Apple’s device identifier. As this New York Times article about the new iOS 14.5 points out,

“advertisers can use [an invisible] method called fingerprinting. This involves looking at seemingly innocuous characteristics of your device — like the screen resolution, operating system version, and model — and combining them to determine your identity and track you across different apps.”

Pretty sure this is as good a time as any to use this emoji 😳 again. So… 😳 .

On the contrary, building a community through private, human-centered apps like Mobilize, Member Press, Higher Logic, and others, means getting to build something authentic, meaningful, useful, and full of consent (a transparent and respected relationship between your organization and its community).

So, what kind of community do you want to build?

Work with experts who build successful communities

Mobilize is made up of community experts who have launched communities for the likes of Dropbox, United Nations’ SDSN, Dermalogica, and more. We work with you to align your business goals with a tailored community strategy to ensure its success.

Whether you’re just getting started or are looking to improve outcomes with your existing community — we have strategies and industry-tailored programs to help you get things done. Schedule a demo for a personalized walk-through of our technology and learn about our expert-led strategy services.