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Apple will face a French antitrust probe into its upcoming App Tracking Transparency feature, following a complaint from advertisers in the country that the planned changes are anticompetitive.

app-tracking-pop-up-ios-14.jpg

Starting in iOS 14.5, Apple will require apps to get opt-in permission from users to collect their random advertising identifier, which advertisers use to deliver personalized ads and track how effective their campaigns were.

In light of the planned changes, a group of advertising companies and publishers filed a complaint in France last year alleging that the wording of Apple's permission prompt will lead most users to decline tracking of their device's advertising identifier, which could result in lost revenue.

On Wednesday, France's competition regulator rejected a plea from the group to block Apple's plan to restrict tracking of users' app usage, on the grounds that obtaining consent "doesn't appear to be abusive." Instead, the probe will scrutinize whether Apple is being consistent in applying the same rules to itself.

Via Bloomberg:
The investigation will "look closely" at whether Apple applied less stringent rules to itself than to other services as it makes privacy changes to curb online tracking in its forthcoming iOS 14 software update, the authority's chief, Isabelle de Silva told reporters at a Paris press conference on Wednesday. The case shows the need for fast antitrust action into technical issues, she said, promising a final ruling by early 2022 at the latest.
Apple's planned rollout of its new App Tracking Transparency feature has been controversial among advertisers from the off, with the upcoming feature drawing criticism from the likes of Facebook, which is concerned that many users will not consent to being tracked across apps for ad personalization purposes.

App Tracking Transparency is different from Apple's own personalized advertising system, which the regulator is likely to scrutinize as part of its probe. Apple's ads system doesn't track users across apps and doesn't identify users to target its ads. Instead, it relies on the anonymous grouping of users' shared characteristics such as apps downloaded, age, country or city of residence, and gender.

In a statement given to Bloomberg, Apple said it was "grateful" to the authority for "recognizing that app tracking transparency in iOS 14 is in the best interest of French iOS users," and said it looked forward to working with regulators on user privacy and competition.

Update: Apple issued the following statement to MacRumors in response to the French Competition Authority:
We're grateful to the French Competition Authority for recognizing that App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14 is in the best interest of French iOS users. ATT will provide a powerful user privacy benefit by requiring developers to ask users' permission before sharing their data with other companies for the purposes of advertising, or with data brokers. We firmly believe that users' data belongs to them, and that they should control when that data is shared, and with whom. We look forward to further engagement with the FCA on this critical matter of user privacy and competition.

Article Link: French Regulator to Probe Apple's Upcoming Anti-Tracking Feature [Updated]
 
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ericwn

macrumors G4
Apr 24, 2016
10,784
8,748
As a German I must say, that France is like that wife that you can't please. No matter what you do.
Of course France probes every single fart a foreign company does. Then the French wonder why nobody likes them.

The fact that the rest don’t like France is covered in the famous Trillion Dollar episode of the Simpsons.
 

Janschi

macrumors regular
Jul 31, 2013
111
150
The fact that the rest don’t like France is covered in the famous Trillion Dollar episode of the Simpsons.
I haven't watched that episode. I'll do it now.

Germany isn't great either, but I think the Anti-Tracking Feature really much is in favor of the GDPR the EU imposed a couple of years back.

In my opinion France only probes this, because Apple is a foreign company.
 

ruka.snow

macrumors 68000
Jun 6, 2017
1,851
4,995
Scotland
In my opinion France only probes this, because Apple is a foreign company.

Rightfully so. Companies in their own country are worried about a foreign multi trillion dollar company abusing its power, rightly or otherwise. Once it is reviewed independently then it is only a good thing for Apple as they'll be able to demonstrate that they aren't using some secret back door tracking and that amazingly you can run a business without knowing what your customers had for breakfast.
 

Seanm87

macrumors 68000
Oct 10, 2014
1,833
3,306
I thought the top option was “ask app not to track” but in that pic it looks the other way around?

which is it in the beta?
 

Janschi

macrumors regular
Jul 31, 2013
111
150
Rightfully so. Companies in their own country are worried about a foreign multi trillion dollar company abusing its power, rightly or otherwise. Once it is reviewed independently then it is only a good thing for Apple as they'll be able to demonstrate that they aren't using some secret back door tracking and that amazingly you can run a business without knowing what your customers had for breakfast.
I understand, but for something like literally tracking and selling user data?
 

Davidglenn

macrumors regular
Dec 3, 2014
135
170
Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
Perhaps France could explain exactly what they require or maybe they don’t know themselves.
 
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ericwn

macrumors G4
Apr 24, 2016
10,784
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I haven't watched that episode. I'll do it now.

Germany isn't great either, but I think the Anti-Tracking Feature really much is in favor of the GDPR the EU imposed a couple of years back.

In my opinion France only probes this, because Apple is a foreign company.

Oh I know Germany well, France not that good but it’s totally possible that certain competitors already had lobbied to have this investigated. I just don’t expect great findings.

Viel Spaß mit den Simpsons!
 

ruka.snow

macrumors 68000
Jun 6, 2017
1,851
4,995
Scotland
I understand, but for something like literally tracking and selling user data?

The issue to me is more that there is a case of double standards needing investigated. If Facebook had a device that banned everyone else from tracking users, you would be sure that would raise every alarm in the EU.
 
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jlc1978

macrumors 601
Aug 14, 2009
4,071
2,505
What sort of world are we living in where it's "anti-competitive" to ask companies to stop spying on your internet usage?

A French one.

Rightfully so. Companies in their own country are worried about a foreign multi trillion dollar company abusing its power, rightly or otherwise.

Yea, they prefer only their local multi trillion dollar company abusing their power.

Once it is reviewed independently then it is only a good thing for Apple as they'll be able to demonstrate that they aren't using some secret back door tracking and that amazingly you can run a business without knowing what your customers had for breakfast.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. There is a lot of money at stake for advertising companies, as well as for developers whoo get revenue from ads.

Eventually it may come down to the program is free only if you allow tracking, otherwise you need to pay for it.
 
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ericwn

macrumors G4
Apr 24, 2016
10,784
8,748
What sort of world are we living in where it's "anti-competitive" to ask companies to stop spying on your internet usage?

Nobody asked that though. They are asked to put labels on their App Store entries and throw prompts at the user.
The anti competitive element is the assumption that Apple wasn’t as open with its own declarations on the manner, hence the term.
 

apoltix

macrumors newbie
Jun 8, 2008
21
47
London
As usual nobody read the article and go only by the headline.

On Wednesday, France's competition regulator rejected a plea from the group to block Apple's plan to restrict tracking of users' app usage, on the grounds that obtaining consent "doesn't appear to be abusive." Instead, the probe will scrutinize whether Apple is being consistent in applying the same rules to itself.
 

amartinez1660

macrumors 65816
Sep 22, 2014
1,317
1,231
Looking forward to the findings. Apple likely has applied greater care in the privacy part of its business so I don’t necessarily expect any great revelations here.

Rightfully so. Companies in their own country are worried about a foreign multi trillion dollar company abusing its power, rightly or otherwise. Once it is reviewed independently then it is only a good thing for Apple as they'll be able to demonstrate that they aren't using some secret back door tracking and that amazingly you can run a business without knowing what your customers had for breakfast.
Yes exactly, hopefully it all comes out clean.

But what if it isn’t the case? What are these tracking/advertisement/sniffing companies expect? If Apple somehow has a thing to fix, big or small, then open the gates back again? Absolutely not, it just means that Apple will also have to correct course and play to the same standards, not suddenly revert the rules back to the free for all tracking ways.
 

Nordichund

macrumors 6502
Aug 21, 2007
490
260
Oslo, Norway
France is just trying to deflect its major issues by picking up this bone. France is an amazing country to visit and it has a wonderful culture, not to mention its wine, style and food. However, I don't think France has forgiven the rest of the world for adopting the Internet, which killed of their beloved Minitel, France's own Online system which nobody else wanted.
Just like the UK, France's politicians have their own delusions of Grandeur from past, broken, highly corrupt empires.
 
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ftaok

macrumors 603
Jan 23, 2002
6,415
1,455
East Coast
The issue to me is more that there is a case of double standards needing investigated. If Facebook had a device that banned everyone else from tracking users, you would be sure that would raise every alarm in the EU.
I suppose that if Facebook made a device and restricted apps from tracking users, it would be safe to presume that Facebook would track users on that device, hence an unfair advantage.

Apple, gets the benefit of the doubt in this situation precisely because their public statements and actions have demonstrated that they do not track users in this manner, often to the detriment of the user experience.

France can investigate if they want, but they're not likely to find anything. If anything, they'll probably find that Apple deliberately stays on the "privacy" side of their own rules.
 
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