Another day, another antitrust investigation into a tech giant. This time it’s Apple: the German competition watchdog announced on Tuesday a new probe in Apple’s list of anti-tracking technologies the company has deployed Last year.
The Bundeskartellamt investigation focuses primarily on Apple’s App Tracking Transparency Framework (or ATT, for short). For those who don’t know, ATT is the a set of rules that Apple rolled out as part of iOS 14 that forces third-party app developers to ask for permission to track users who download their apps — and when those users say no, ATT is what blocks access from these applications to a wealth of valuable user data. You might recognize it from the little window that pops up asking if you want to give an app access to your personal information, and you can respond with “Ask app not to track” or “Allow” .
Bundeskartellamt President Andreas Mundt noted on Tuesday that “a company like Apple that is able to unilaterally set rules for its ecosystem, especially for its App Store, should establish pro-competitive rules.”
Apple likes brand itself as a privacy protector who bravely stands up to countless other tech companies that gobble up your data and do… well, no matter they or they want to with that. Case in point: An Apple spokesperson responded to the German survey by saying, “Privacy has always been central to our products and features.” Naturally, these same companies were angry when ATT came into play. Perhaps the most angry was Facebook, which moans earlier this year that this update alone would cost it about $10 billion in targeted ad sales. Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel recently chalked a quarter less than stellar for his own business at ATT as well. Stores these two companies, as well as Twitter and Pinterest, tanked following the update being deployed.
iOS users continued to unsubscribe in registration numberstech companies kept sweating and Apple kept running brilliant TV campaigns on its privacy-preserving products. So what’s the problem ?
Well, there are a few, according to the complaint from the Bundeskartellamt. For one thing, ATT doesn’t exclude iOS owners from Apple tracking their behavior on their device. At the same time, Apple launched its own paid advertising products, such as advertisements on the top of your App Store Search Results– that are micro-targeted with data that is now unavailable to other advertisers. An analyst recently estimated that Apple’s advertising business, which is already worth $2 billion, could be multiplied by 10 by 2025.
Taken together, some operators in the adtech space called ATT a “blatant market taking”. Users’ obvious need for privacy could be a driving factor in that decision, they said, but ultimately business factors, such as the growth of its fledgling advertising business, were the real motivators, they said. declared.
Now it looks like German regulators agree. “We have reason to doubt this is the case when we see that Apple’s rules apply to third parties, but not to Apple itself,” Mundt said.
This new review of ATT follows similar investigations by competition authorities in France, Britainand Poland on the same.
We’ve reached out to Apple for comment on the case. In a report at Techcruncha company spokesperson had this to offer:
At Apple, we believe that a user’s data belongs to them and they must decide if they want to share their data and with whom. We’ve long believed in the power of advertising to connect businesses to customers – and that you can have great advertising with great privacy. Application Tracking Transparency (ATT) simply gives users the choice whether or not to allow apps to track them or share their information with data brokers. ATT does not prevent companies from advertising or restricting their use of first-party data they obtain from users with their consent.
These rules apply equally to all developers, including Apple, and we’ve received strong support from regulators and privacy advocates for this feature. Apple holds itself to a higher standard of privacy than almost any other company by giving users an affirmative choice over whether or not they want personalized ads.
We will continue to engage constructively with the FCO to answer any questions they may have and discuss how our approach promotes competition and choice, while protecting user privacy and security.
Custom or not, it always looks like Apple is doing everything it can to lure advertisers– and their dollars – a far cry from other tech giants. Since these European competition authorities are more concerned with preventing monopolies than with protecting user Data, Apple’s pleas about privacy may fall on deaf ears.