What counts as an 'ad' and 'tracking' under Apple's policy language?

In addition to industry standard acceptance of clear distinctions in the intent, use and meaning of the terms “advertising” and “marketing” as separate terms of art (where advertising is a type of marketing but not all marketing is advertising), Apple has taken care to be specific in their consistent use of “advertising” while taking the necessary steps to provide granularity around the more ambiguous “tracking” in their updated guidance around iOS 14.5

Apple repeatedly refers to advertising in the context of advertising networks in their “User Privacy and Data Use” documentation, which indicates a common sense understanding of an “ad” as a third-party placement that seeks to drive user interaction with the advertiser on their separate platform.

Supplemental information in the FAQ section of the documentation, including the answer to “Can I use multiple advertising networks for the purposes of SKAdNetwork?” that states, “Contact your advertising networks of choice to understand whether they are integrated with SKAdNetwork” further indicate that a traditional understanding of “ads” as paid placements on “other companies’ apps, websites, or offline properties” as apple states in the opening paragraph of “Asking Permission to Track”.

The “Asking Permission to Track” provides a specific definition of tracking, specifically that, “Tracking refers to the act of linking user or device data collected from your app with user or device data collected from other companies’ apps, websites, or offline properties for targeted advertising or advertising measurement purposes. Tracking also refers to sharing user or device data with data brokers.”

Additional Resources