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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The days of unwieldy internet user tracking by advertisers are coming to an end, sending the web's largest publishers scrambling.

Why it matters: The new online privacy changes are a massive pivot from the decades-long practice of selling hyper-targeted ads to users based on their web history. Many big web publishers rely on targeted ads to support their businesses.

Driving the news: Apple on Monday began rolling out its long-awaited app tracking transparency feature that asks Apple iOS users whether they would like to opt out of having their data tracked by third-party apps.

  • The change, arriving in conjunction with Apple's iOS 14.5 software update, has Apple's tech rivals — especially Facebook — nervous about the impact that the update will have on their advertising businesses.
  • Beginning Monday, users began receiving notifications when they updated their devices with Apple's latest software asking them whether they want to share their data.
  • Gaming app publishers originally told Axios that they expected very few people — 15-20% — to actually opt-in to having their data be shared. But a new analysis from AppsFlyer, a mobile software company, says opt-in rates may be higher, possible minimizing the impact of Apple's changes on the ad ecosystem.

Between the lines: For publishers that rely on user data to sell banner ads, new privacy changes coming to web browsers will also force them to make significant changes and important business decisions.

  • Google said earlier this year that it — along with other web browsers like Apple's Safari and Mozilla's Firefox — would begin phasing out web cookies, the technology that's been used for decades to track people's web history for the primary purpose of selling ads.
  • Last month, Google said it had begun working with publishers and advertisers to test a new solution called Federated Learning of Cohorts (FLoC), which targets groups of people instead of tracking individuals.

The catch: Google's solution requires broad industry support, and many web publishers are skeptical.

  • WordPress, the blogging platform that supports a huge chunk of the internet's websites, last week called Google's alternative a "security concern" that could unintentionally facilitate disparities amongst people on the web.
  • Digiday reported this week that some publishers, like The Guardian, are blocking Google's new tech, while others, like The New York Times, are open to experimenting with it.
  • While many publishers have begun rolling out their own first-party data solutions to get ahead of new targeting restrictions, others are tying to navigate whether and how they should work with Google on its new experiment.

Be smart: Some industry bodies, like ad tech giant The Trade Desk, are proposing alternative to third-party cookies that still allow marketers to track individuals.

  • The Trade Desk's solution, called the Unified ID 2.0, also requires broad buy-in from the industry. Already several big companies have joined the movement, like The Washington Post, ad tech company Criteo and Nielsen.

The big picture: The privacy changes enacted by big companies across the web are happening in response to regulatory pressure around new privacy laws.

  • Analysts predict digital ad growth will skyrocket, putting more pressure on internet giants and web publishers to come up with ad-targeting solutions.

Go deeper

7 mins ago - World

Israeli and Palestinian officials are speaking again

Isaac Herzog (L), then the leader of the opposition, meets with Mahmoud Abbas in 2015. Photo: Abbas MomaniI/AFP via Getty

Relations between the new Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority have shifted substantially in recent weeks, with Israeli officials going so far as to call it “a renaissance."

Why it matters: During Benjamin Netanyahu's 12-year tenure as prime minister, relations deteriorated to the point where there was almost no contact other than security coordination.

39 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Bipartisan group reaches agreement on $1.2 trillion "hard" infrastructure bill

Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images.

After weeks of long nights and endless Zoom calls, a bipartisan group of senators finally reached a deal on "the major issues" in their $1.2 trillion "hard" infrastructure package, GOP senators involved in the talks announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: It could be days before the group finishes writing the bill, but the Senate can begin debating the legislation in earnest now that they have resolved the outstanding issues. The bill needs 60 votes to advance in the Senate.

59 mins ago - Health

Pfizer raises estimate of COVID-19 vaccine sales by 29%

Pfizer anticipates manufacturing 4 billion doses of its vaccine next year. Photo: Chet Strange/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Pfizer expects revenue from the COVID-19 vaccine, co-developed by BioNTech, will reach $33.5 billion this year — a 29% jump from the previously estimated $26 billion.

Why it matters: This vaccine, which has dramatically slowed the coronavirus pandemic, is on pace to be the world's top-selling drug of all time, by far. And now Pfizer is pushing for people to get a third "booster" shot of its vaccine to combat the growing Delta variant.