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Expand chart
Data: Branch; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

The latest earnings reports from Facebook and Snapchat show that Apple's mobile privacy measures are beginning to have a material impact on the ad businesses of some of its Big Tech competitors.

Why it matters: While experts don't think Apple's moves will do long-term damage to its rivals, they will force social media companies to invest heavily in new technology and products for the next few years — all while their ads business continues to experience significant headwinds.

Driving the news: Facebook on Monday blamed changes to Apple's "Identifier for Advertisers" (IDFA) user tracking feature for missing Wall Street expectations on revenue.

  • Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg said that the company would've experienced quarter-over-quarter revenue growth, if not for Apple's changes.
  • Snapchat's stock fell nearly 25% in after-hours trading last week after it conceded that its ad business "was disrupted" by Apple's update.

Be smart: Unlike Snapchat, Facebook warned investors last month about its expectation that changes to Apple’s privacy rules would weigh on its business. That warning helped the company dodge a big stock slide Monday.

Catch up quick: Apple began rolling out new privacy features for iOS devices this summer that limited advertisers' ability to use its IDFA user tracking feature to target users by interest and measure whether they clicked on an ad.

  • Companies like Facebook and Snapchat that sell ads based on user interest data were uniquely exposed to those changes in ways that search ad rivals, like Google and Amazon, were not.
  • For Facebook, "The damage is going to be pretty profound," said Eric Seufert, an independent analyst and owner of Mobile Dev Memo.

Yes, but: Analysts don't expect the IDFA changes to have a long-term impact on Big Tech giants, although they do concede it will require firms to invest upfront in costly new solutions.

"IDFA was at the center of the infrastructure for the way these companies did ad attribution and retargeting," Seufert said. "They can re-architect — it will just take time."

  • Sandberg said she thinks that replacing the measurement capabilities afforded by Apple's IDFA feature will be done "this and next year," but "targeting is a longer term challenge."

What to watch: A report from The Financial Times last week found that Apple's in-house ads business is "now responsible for 58% of all iPhone app downloads that result from clicking on an advert" compared to 17% a year prior, citing data from mobile analytics company Branch (see chart above).

  • On Monday, The Information reported that the Justice Department has accelerated its antitrust probe of Apple and it's "very likely" to sue the company.

Go deeper

Nov 23, 2021 - Technology

Apple sues Israeli NSO Group over spyware use

Photo: Budrul Chukrut/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Apple filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the Israeli cyber intelligence companies NSO Group and its parent company to "hold it accountable for the surveillance and targeting of Apple users," the company announced.

Details: Apple is also seeking a permanent injunction to ban NSO Group from using Apple devices, software, or services, per a press release.

Updated Nov 23, 2021 - Technology

China's new privacy law leaves U.S. behind

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

While China's sweeping new data privacy laws have left tech companies confused about how to comply, they also put the U.S. even further behind in the global race to set digital standards.

What's happening: China enacted its Personal Information Privacy Law earlier this month, following Europe as the second major international player to have its own sweeping data privacy regulations.

1 hour ago - World

Scoop: Iran preparing to enrich weapons-grade uranium, Israel warns U.S.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi holds a press conference. Photo: Presidency of Iran handout via Getty

Israel has shared intelligence over the past two weeks with the U.S. and several European allies suggesting that Iran is taking technical steps to prepare to enrich uranium to 90% purity — the level needed to produce a nuclear weapon, two U.S. sources briefed on the issue tell me.

Why it matters: Enriching to 90% would bring Iran closer than ever to the nuclear threshold. The Israeli warnings come as nuclear talks resume in Vienna, with Iran returning to the negotiating table on Monday after a five-month hiatus.

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