Antitrust complaint claims Apple’s crackdown on user tracking is unfair

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Apple is all about privacy.
Photo: Apple

A French antitrust complaint against Apple targets an iOS 14 feature that makes it tougher for companies to indiscriminately use tracking technology for mobile advertising.

The anti-tracking feature previously faced criticism, unsurprisingly, from companies that work in mobile advertising. However, this is the one of the first legal actions taken against Apple due to the feature.

A coalition of trade groups working in online advertising brought the complaint. This includes publishers, app makers and social media platforms. The feature they object to asks users if they agree to being tracked on apps and across different websites. The complaint, made to France’s Competition Authority, says the privacy feature boosts Apple by giving it a new selling point while hurting other companies.

The Financial Times reports:

“The coalition bringing the complaint includes the digital advertising trade body IAB France, whose board includes representatives from LinkedIn, Google and Le Monde; the Mobile Marketing Association France, whose advisory board includes members from Publicis and Facebook; and Udecam and SRI, who act for media buyers and sellers respectively.”

The report quotes Damien Geradin, a lawyer representing the complainants. “While privacy matters and needs to be protected, privacy rhetoric cannot be used as a fig leaf to justify anti-competitive practices that will destroy the mobile ad ecosystem while benefiting Apple,” Geradin said.

Antitrust complaint about user tracking

Apple has been outspoken about user privacy for many years. The sentiment dates back all the way to the Steve Jobs era. However, the technology used to track users has advanced significantly since then. Apple CEO Tim Cook famously told Charlie Rose that, when customers don’t pay for a product, users are the product. Since then, Apple continues to champion user privacy at every opportunity.

Apple announced the new anti-tracking feature at 2020’s Worldwide Developers Conference. Soon after, a group of digital advertising companies complained that the feature will carry a “high risk of user refusal.” Ad Age  described Apple’s privacy-oriented change as a “tectonic shift” for the digital ad industry.

Source: Financial Times