Meet the Apple exec who created -- and destroyed -- IDFA

From Wayne Ma's "Inside Apple’s Decision to Blow Up the Digital Ads Business" posted Monday on The Information ($):

Within Apple, a decision to curtail ad tracking of iPhone users in 2020 sparked an intense debate between Cook’s lieutenants about just how far to push privacy changes poised to upend the digital advertising industry.

On one side of the discussions was Craig Federighi, Apple’s software chief. He oversaw a team of privacy-minded engineers who wanted to curtail the powers of an Apple tool that unscrupulous advertising companies, mobile developers and data brokers were exploiting to track the behavior of iPhone users, according to people with direct knowledge of the discussions.

On the other side were Eddy Cue, head of Apple’s services and advertising businesses, and Philip Schiller, then the company’s top marketing executive, who led its App Store. Cue and Schiller argued for more-cautious action against the tool, given that many developers relied on it for advertising revenue. The executives were also worried about potential damage to App Store revenues, the people said...

What particularly galvanized the Apple executives into action, these people say, was a dawning recognition that it had, in effect, created a monster in the digital tracking tool that became a pillar of the ads business and the surveillance industry.

“They opened a proverbial Pandora’s box,” said Eric Schmitt, an ad tech analyst at Gartner.

At the heart of the Apple effort to shut that box was Erik Neuenschwander, an influential 15-year veteran of the company who heads up its privacy engineering team. His role is all the more noteworthy because he was the Apple employee who over a decade ago came up with the idea for the now controversial tracking tool, called identifier for advertisers (IDFA), according to people familiar with its development.

My take: I feel like I know a bit about how Neuenschwander thinks about privacy from the interview he gave Rene Ritchie in January. Cue the YouTube:


  1. Privacy-minded engineers, Head of User Privacy, makes me wonder if other firms (FB, GOOG, AMZN) even discuss the topic much less have an executive and engineers working on it as ‘a pillar’ of their business. End-to-End Encryption vs Data Exploitation battles make Privacy/Safety an incredible service in this age. I appreciate Apple requiring App Store developers to include App Privacy statements (Data Used to Track You, Data Linked to You) about what they do with my data. I now read them closely before I decide to download a new app. I reviewed App Privacy for existing apps and deleted many existing apps.

    PS. Great to see Steve again in that very relevant Rene Ritchie video, thanks Philip.

    March 14, 2022
    • David Emery said:
      I’m sure they have people who work on privacy. But I’m also sure those people don’t have strong influence on corporate policy at either Google or Meta…

      March 14, 2022

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