France’s competition regulatory agency will investigate Apple’s upcoming App Tracking Transparency feature, due to complaints from French advertisers that Apple’s planned changes are “anticompetitive.
As of the public release of iOS 14.5, Apple will require apps to request opt-in permission from users to access their random advertising identifier to be used to deliver and track the effectiveness of personalized ads.
A group of advertisers and publishers last year filed a complaint in France, alleging that the wording of Apple’s permission prompt will cause most users to not allow tracking of their device’s advertising identifier, which could result in lost revenue.
Today, France’s competition regulator rejected a plea from the above group to block Apple’s restricting of the tracking of users’ app usage, on the grounds that obtaining consent “doesn’t appear to be abusive.”
However, an investigation will be conducted to scrutinize whether Apple is consistently applying the rules to its own apps.
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 upcoming rollout of its new App Tracking Transparency feature has been controversial from the start, drawing criticism from publishers and advertisers, including from Facebook, who fears a large loss of revenue, due to users not consenting to being tracked across apps for ad personalization purposes.
The French regulator is expected to closely scrutinize Apple’s own personalized advertising system, which is different from the App Tracking Transparency system. Apple’s ads system does not track users across apps and doesn’t personally identify users for ad targeting. It instead relies on the anonymous grouping of users’ shared stats, such as apps downloaded, their age, gender, and more.
An Apple spokesperson told Bloomberg that it was “grateful” to the authority for “recognizing that app tracking transparency in iOS 14 is in the best interest of French iOS users,” the company said that it looked forward to working with regulators on user privacy and competition.