Enlarge /. A man is glaring at an iPhone, just like advertising companies fear that iOS users will find out how they are being tracked and that they can choose not to.
Apple's plan to add a new privacy feature to iOS to curb "invasive, even creepy" third-party tracking is nothing more than an abuse of market power to stifle competition, claims Facebook – an extraordinary third-party tracking company.
Apple announced in June that iOS 14 would make a change that would require app developers to notify users when their app collects a unique device code called IDFA (ID for Advertisers) and that this collection will be an opt-in Setting must be. However, following a pushback from Facebook and other companies, Apple delayed implementation of the new policy and launched iOS 14 in September without activating it. Instead, the company said the feature would be added "early next year" to give developers more time to update their apps accordingly.
Apple is behind its plan to roll out the new App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature over the next year and plans to develop it further, said Jane Horvath, Apple's senior director of global data protection, in a letter to eight citizen, people and digital rights groups like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
"Tracking can be invasive or even creepy, and most of the time it takes place without meaningful awareness or consent from users," wrote Horvath. "What some companies refer to as 'personalized experiences' are often veiled attempts to collect as much data as possible about individuals, create extensive profiles on them, and then monetize those profiles."
"We are not against advertising," added Horvath. "We just believe that tracking should be transparent and under user control, which creates user trust that benefits everyone." She specifically called out Facebook in the letter, adding:
Facebook executives have made it clear that they intend to collect as much data as possible on first and third party products in order to develop and monetize detailed profiles of their users. This disregard for user privacy continues to grow and encompass more of their products. .. We see the update to iOS 14, which implements the ATT function as a natural progression and offers our users the same explicit data protection options with regard to tracking through their apps as other important functions of the device.
Facebook, set on fire
Facebook may not predictably care about Apple's characterization of its business model. Instead, the social media giant was looking for Apple's current problem: the enforcement of antitrust law.
"The truth is that Apple has expanded its business into advertising and through the upcoming changes to iOS 14 is trying to turn the free internet into paid apps and services that they can benefit from," a Facebook representative said, adding:
As a result, they use their dominant position to prefer their own data collection themselves, making it nearly impossible for their competitors to use the same data. They say it's about privacy, but it's about profit. … We will not be fooled. All of this is part of a transformation of Apple's business from innovative hardware products to data-driven software and media.
Facebook clearly has a vested interest in being able to track iOS users in very detailed and thorough ways tIndeed, the company will lose its position if individuals can unsubscribe. However, Facebook is far from the only company claiming that Apple is wrongly abusing its power to oust third-party companies.
A group of publishers, advertising groups and social media platforms filed an antitrust complaint against Apple in France in late October, arguing that Apple used consumer protection language to cover up a deliberate attempt to stifle competition. "While privacy is important and needs to be protected, privacy rhetoric cannot be used as a fig leaf to justify anti-competitive practices that destroy the mobile ad ecosystem while benefiting Apple," said a lawyer who represented the coalition .
This claim follows a number of different antitrust complaints filed against Apple around the world. The European Commission opened an investigation into Apple Pay this summer following a complaint from Spotify. Messaging App Telegram also filed a complaint through the App Store shortly after the EU confirmed the investigation was ongoing.
Here in the United States, Apple is embroiled in a dramatic legal battle with Epic Games, in which an antitrust case was alleged in August that Apple was "the giant that tries to control markets, block competition and stifle innovation." Epic became one of the founding members of a new trading group, the Coalition for App Fairness, in September to force Apple to change its "exploitative" app store practices.
A Congressional investigation, concluded in October, upheld the complaints, finding that Apple was anti-competitive linking its in-app payment system and app store tHat tThe company wrongly used its control over APIs, search rankings, and standard apps to hurt third-party competitors. The Justice Department has reportedly been conducting an antitrust investigation into Apple.
Earlier this week, Apple appeared to be trying to appease regulators by halving the cut in small developer sales from 30 percent to 15 percent. However, this cut only affects developers who generate less than $ 1 million a year with all of their iOS apps – and it's an opt-in program that developers must apply for and be accepted for.