App Tracking Transparency

Apple cracks down on apps that use device fingerprinting to track users

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iPhone Device Fingerprinting
Just like you have fingerprints, your iPhone can have a device fingerprint.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Apple warned all App Store developers that it’s starting a crackdown on using device fingerprinting for user tracking.

As a means of preventing this invasive tracking, Apple will soon require devs to justify the inclusion of all APIs in software submitted to the App Store.

Germany investigates unfair advantages in Apple’s anti-tracking system

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Facebook vs. iPhone App Tracking Transparency
There's more to App Tracking Transparency than meets the eye.
Photo: Apple/Cult of Mac

The German government is looking into whether Apple’s App Tracking Transparency system is designed to give Apple an unfair advantage in advertising.

The Bundeskartellamt doesn’t object to the iPhone-maker blocking tracking. But the agency points out that ATT doesn’t block Apple’s own advertising tracking system.

Improved iPhone privacy protections could cost Facebook $20.9 billion and counting

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Facebook vs. iPhone App Tracking Transparency
Turns out the answer to this question was “do not track” 80% of the time.
Photo: Apple/Cult of Mac

A tweak to iOS privacy settings made in 2021 has already cost Facebook $8.1 billion, and the social-networking company’s losses will increase by another $12.8 billion in 2022, according to an industry report.

Forcing applications to ask permission before tracking their users’ online activity hurt other companies, too. But nowhere near as much as Facebook.

Facebook is still whining about Apple’s ‘harmful’ privacy features

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By running anti-Apple ads in major newspapers, Facebook's taking its battle with Apple to the next level.
Facebook is expected to lose $10 billion to Apple's changes this year alone.
Photo: Thought Catalog/Unsplash CC

Facebook parent company Meta is still bemoaning App Tracking Transparency, the “harmful” feature Apple introduced last year in iOS 14.5 to bolster the privacy of iPhone and iPad users.

The change is “making it harder and more expensive” for businesses to reach their customers, Meta said as advertisers reportedly slash their spending on Facebook and Instagram and turn to rivals like Amazon and Google instead.

Peloton partly blames Apple for post-pandemic sales plunge

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Peloton blames Apple for sales slump
It's much more difficult for Peloton to serve targeted ads.
Photo: Peloton

Apple’s efforts to bolster your privacy protections on iPhone and iPad are being blamed for a sharp decline in Peloton sales.

The company enjoyed a boom while everyone was stuck at home during the pandemic, but it has since been forced to cut its outlook by as much as $1 billion. It said this week that Apple’s crackdown on tracking is partly at fault.

App Tracking Transparency hasn’t hurt Facebook’s ad revenue… yet

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Facebook logo
Facebook released its latest earnings report Wednesday.
Photo: Brett Jordan/Unsplash

Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature hasn’t been enough to stop Facebook from pulling in a massive $28 billion in ad revenue for the second quarter of 2021. That represents a 56% increase year-on-year. Facebook earned $10.4 billion in total profits for the quarter.

While Apple’s anti-tracking privacy measures weren’t explicitly designed to hurt Facebook, Facebook has been outspoken about the impacts they would have on its business. A recent Facebook-funded research paper called the iOS 14 feature an “anti-competitive strategy disguised as a privacy-protecting measure.”

Apple fends off Chinese attempt to get around App Tracking Transparency

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App Tracking Transparency will be part of iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5 and tvOS 14.5. It’s already showing up in betas.
App Tracking Transparency stops developers tracking users without their permission.
Graphic: Cult of Mac

Apple has thwarted an attempt by multiple Chinese tech companies to get around its App Tracking Transparency feature, the Financial Times reports Monday.

The group of tech companies includes Baidu, Tencent, and TikTok parent company ByteDance. They supposedly worked with a couple of Beijing companies to find a new way to get around Apple’s new privacy measures.

However, Apple blocked updates to several apps that included the workaround, called the Chinese Advertising ID (CAID). In doing so, it enforced its rules in a way that may have surprised the companies in question.

Tim Cook calls Apple’s privacy features a ‘fundamental human right’

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Privacy
Privacy is baked into everything Apple does.
Photo: Privacy

In a new video aimed at the European market, Apple CEO Tim Cook talks about how “privacy is a fundamental human right” that his company works hard to embed into every new product it makes. The six-minute video comprises various clips from Apple’s recent Worldwide Developers Conference related to the topic of privacy. Cook also recorded new bookends in which he shares some of his own thoughts.

Check it out below.

Facebook-backed report calls Apple privacy features anticompetitive

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App Tracking Transparency is iOS 14.5's controversial new privacy-related feature.
Is Apple weaponizing privacy to increase its advantage?
Screenshot: Apple

Facebook isn’t backing down in its battle against Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature. And it’s seemingly got a couple of heavy hitter researchers in its corner.

In a Facebook-funded paper published Wednesday, Feng Zhu, an associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, and D. Daniel Sokol, a professor of law at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, take issue with Apple’s new privacy features — referring to them as “an anticompetitive strategy disguised as a privacy-protecting measure.”

Apple takes funny look at apps tracking users in new video

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Apple takes funny look at apps tracking users in new video
Apple shows what the world would look like if brick-and-mortar businesses were just as nosy as apps.

Apple has a new video for all the people who took a TL;DR approach to the iPhone’s new App Tracking Transparency. Rather than read an explanation of the feature that debuted in April, there’s a short video showing what the world would look like if brick-and-mortar businesses were able to follow people the way apps can.

The result is pretty funny. Watch it now:

Only a tiny proportion of iOS users let apps track them

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App Tracking Transparency will be part of iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5 and tvOS 14.5. It’s already showing up in betas.
App Tracking Transparency is here -- and users seem to be responding.
Graphic: Cult of Mac

Apple’s new App Tracking Transparency feature looks surprisingly popular with users — and potentially devastating to advertising. According to analysis by Flurry, just 4% of U.S. users allow apps to track them when given a choice.

The new privacy feature, rolled out in iOS 14.5 in late April, requires developers to ask for permission to use Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers tag to track users’ movements across websites and third-party apps. Flurry’s stats indicate a massive 96 out of 100 users in the United States denied that permission.

iOS 14.5.1 update fixes App Tracking Transparency bug

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App Tracking Transparency is iOS 14.5's controversial new privacy-related feature.
Today's update fixes a bug that kept App Tracking Transparency from working properly for some users.
Screenshot: Apple

Apple rushed out iOS 14.5.1 on Monday, an update that fixes a bug in the App Tracking Transparency feature rolled out a week ago.

“This update fixes an issue with App Tracking Transparency where some users who previously disabled Allow Apps to Request to Track in Settings may not receive prompts from apps after re-enabling it,” Apple’s release notes said. “This update also provides important security updates and is recommended for all users.”

iPadOS 14.5.1, a version of the software for iPad users, also arrived Monday.

App Tracking Transparency makes Chinese tech giant Alibaba worry

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Alibaba
Alibaba is a giant in the world of e-commerce.
Photo: Markus Winkler/Unsplash CC

It’s not just U.S. tech giants that fear iOS 14.5’s new App Tracking Transparency feature. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, with a market cap of $646.84 billion, is supposedly very worried, just like Facebook.

A report from The Information says Alibaba invited half a dozen marketing execs to its Hangzhou headquarters to discuss how to react to the new feature, which stops apps from tracking users across websites and third-party apps.

Why you won’t see App Tracking Transparency prompts immediately

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App Tracking Transparency will be part of iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5 and tvOS 14.5. It’s already showing up in betas.
Developers get to say when the feature goes live. But there's a catch.
Graphic: Cult of Mac

Apple debuted iOS 14.5, with its App Tracking Transparency feature, on Monday. But if you updated your iPhone or iPad, and haven’t seen a flurry of alerts about apps wanting to track you, don’t be concerned. The controversial privacy feature is working as advertised.

That’s because the new privacy tracking prompt, which asks users if they want to allow an app to track them on other companies’ apps and websites, will only show up when a developer agrees for the feature to go live on their specific app. Until they push it live, they’re blocked from tracking users via Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers (aka IDFA).

Apple accused of using app-tracking crackdown to sell ads

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Apple.logo.paris.store
Apple stands to increase ad revenue from recent changes.
Photo: Josh Davidson/Cult of Mac

Apple is being accused of engaging in sneaky behavior when it comes to its advertising strategy. According to a Wall Street Journal report, advertisers who are targeting iPhone users say they will “get more data about ad performance if they buy Apple’s ad space than if they buy through third parties.”

iOS 14.5 offers new privacy oriented features that let users opt out of tracking for personalized ads. However, Apple also sells ads itself in the App Store, News, and Stocks. It has recently been bolstering its efforts in this department.

How to stop apps from tracking you in iOS 14.5

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How to allow/prevent apps tracking you
Thanks to App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14.5, it’s up to your to decide whether third-party applications track you.
Graphic: Cult of Mac

iPhone and iPad just got a significant new privacy protection, preventing third-party apps from tracking you without permission. App Tracking Transparency debuted in iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5.

Here’s how to use it. And what to do about all the popups asking, “Allow [THIS APP] to track your activity?”

iOS 14.5 brings App Tracking Transparency, mask-friendly Face ID

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iOS 14.5 brings App Tracking Transparency, mask-friendly Face ID
Starting with iOS 14.5, iPhone owners can use their Apple Watch to securely unlock their handset when attempting to use Face ID while wearing a face mask.
Photo: Apple

Apple on Monday gave all iPhone users access to iOS 14.5. And iPad users can install iPadOS 14.5  Today’s updates bring a ton of new features, including unlocking an iPhone with an Apple Watch while wearing a mask.

The OS updates also bring App Tracking Transparency, a controversial change that makes it harder for apps to track users for targeted advertising. Other upgrades include new emoji, fresh Siri voices, additional features for Apple’s news and map apps, support for the just-announced AirTag trackers and a wholesale redesign of the Podcasts app.

watchOS 7.4, which is necessary for the new mask-friendly Face ID feature, and tvOS 14.5 also became available today, along with macOS Big Sur 11.3.

Ad companies argue App Tracking Transparency will drive up cost of apps

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App Store image
Could privacy feature be ultimately bad for users?
Photo: James Yarema/Unsplash CC

A group of media, tech, and ad companies in Germany have made an official antitrust complaint about Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature.

The group, which represents Facebook among other companies, is concerned about the effect the new privacy feature will have on the ad business. It also claims that the feature could wind up hurting users by making apps more expensive.

iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5 bring an array of new features ‘next week’

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iOS 14.5 will debut before the end of April.
The wait for iOS 14.5 is almost over — it’ll be out before the end of April. The same goes for iPadOS 14.5.
Photo: Cult of Mac

Apple revealed on Tuesday that iOS 14.5 and the iPad equivalent will reach customers iPhones and tablets some time “next week.” These include a rush of new features, like unlocking an iPhone with an Apple Watch. And a controversial change that make it harder for apps to track users for ads.

To help make the launches possible, developers were given access to the release candidates for these upcoming operating system versions on Tuesday. They can both look for bugs and  test their own applications with the new OS versions.

The average smartphone app harbors 6 different trackers

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Privacy
Privacy has been a big deal for Apple for years.
Photo: Apple

Ahead of the launch of the new App Tracking Transparency iOS 14 feature, Apple on Wednesday published a report titled A Day in the Life of Your Data.

It details the “$227 billion-a-year industry” made up of websites, apps, social media companies, data brokers, and more who harvest user personal data for profit — and what Apple is doing about it.

Apple warns devs that App Tracking Transparency is almost here

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App Tracking Transparency will be part of iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5 and tvOS 14.5. It’s already showing up in betas.
Developers need to get their software ready for App Tracking Transparency. iPhone and iPad will soon prevent apps from tracking users without permission.
Graphic: Cult of Mac

Apple reminded developers on Monday that new iOS, iPadOS and tvOS versions coming soon will block applications from tracking users without specific permission. It’ll no longer be possible for networks of apps to surreptitiously track what people use their devices for.

The same note includes a warning that its also is also forbidden to try to find a workaround for this block by “fingerprinting” devices.

China works to circumvent iOS 14.5’s App Tracking Transparency

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Your iPhone will soon offer a bit more privacy.
Apple is making it tougher for apps to track users.
Graphic: Apple

China’s state-backed China Advertising Association is already looking for ways to get around Apple’s upcoming App Tracking Transparency feature, the Financial Times reported Tuesday.

The organization’s approach reportedly involves something called a “CAID.” This can supposedly act as an alternative means of tracking users to the iPhone’s ad identifier, or IDFA. TikTok parent company ByteDance issued a guide for app developers that describes how marketers “can use CAID as a substitute if the user’s IDFA is unavailable.”