Apple releases SKAdNetwork APIs: mobile attribution to maintain user privacy


As we mull over Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s recent congressional hearing following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, discussion around data-privacy has been rife. In conjunction with the current mobile ad fraud pandemic, it is interesting to see that Apple’s new SKAdNetwork APIs reiterate its unwavering position that ‘privacy is a fundamental human right.’

What are the SKAdNetwork APIs?

Apple released the SKAdNetwork APIs as part of the iOS 11.3 and tvOS 11.3 SDK update on March 29, 2018. As Apple’s Developer Documentation notes, the APIs offer insight into the advertisement conversion tracking flow. A successful installation is notified by relaying only five parameters back to the ad network, excluding private user information (such as location and device information) that we would typically see from Facebook or Google’s chunky, closed-source proprietary SDKs. Without passing on Personally Identifiable Information, it is also a nod towards GDPR compliance months before the regulations come into force. 

An ad’s life – image source: Apple (

How does the SKAdNetwork API redefine Apple’s position in the mobile advertising ecosystem?

Ad networks will require certification from Apple in order to attribute their installs via SKAdNetwork. Apple will become the intermediary between the app and advertising network for conversion tracking, and with Facebook under intense scrutiny, Apple is making it clear that it has, and will continue, to guard its users’ sensitive data, which will likely appeal to the general public.  As part of the continuous power struggle between the digital giants, the release of Apple’s SKAdNetwork APIs essentially acts as a driver for Google and Facebook to take the measures to restrict the user data they have access to.

Currently, with limited information on the SKAdNetwork APIs from Apple, we can only assume what the implications will be for app marketers and how it will effect campaign insights and optimisations.

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