Apple introduces stricter privacy rules on iPhone

Apple is putting a new privacy switch in the hands of iPhone users. In the future, they will be able to decide whether apps can track their behavior on other services and websites for advertising purposes. Facebook is up in arms about this, and now there's a dispute in Germany, too.

Apple is the first smartphone vendor to give its customers an easy way to stop tracking their behavior across different apps and websites. In the future, iPhone app providers will have to explicitly ask users for permission to do so. The analysis company App Annie assumes that 90 percent of users will reject this tracking.

"Privacy is a human right"

Against this background, the measures are meeting with resistance in the advertising world. Facebook has been warning for months that they would hit small and medium-sized businesses in particular, which rely on personalized advertising on the online network, especially in the Corona pandemic. On Monday, several German associations from the advertising and media industry accused Apple of unfair competition and filed a complaint with the Federal Cartel Office.

Apple, on the other hand, insists: "We believe privacy is a fundamental human right." The data belongs to the users, "and they should be able to decide for themselves how their data is used and by whom." It said it had received support from regulators and data privacy campaigners for the feature. Users' data on devices has become increasingly rich and personal, he said.

ATT in iOS update 14.5

"App Tracking Transparency" (ATT), announced back in the summer of 2020, takes hold with the iPhone system version iOS 14.5, which was released on Monday.

In order for app providers to recognize a user for ad personalization, Apple devices have a special identification number, the IDFA. In the future, app providers will have to explicitly ask users for permission if they want to access this ID. Users will also be able to block all tracking requests with a single toggle in the settings.

Criticism of implementation

The associations criticise that the company "effectively excludes all competitors from processing commercially relevant data in the Apple ecosystem". At the same time, however, Apple excludes its own services from the planned changes and collects significant amounts of user data itself. Apple's user privacy manager Erik Neuenschwander countered: "ATT applies equally to all developers worldwide - and that includes Apple."

There are also ways to place advertising more efficiently and measure its effect without following individual users, Neuenschwander emphasized. At the same time, app developers can still process data from their own application with the users' consent.

Users must give consent

After the update to the iPhone software iOS 14.5, the system checks the privacy setting of an app as soon as the application is opened for the first time or after an update. Users are then asked via an interface controlled by Apple whether tracking is actually desired. The app providers can briefly justify in the query box why they would like to have consent for tracking and what benefits this will bring to consumers.

Apple is introducing the ATT process not only on the iPhone, but also on the tablet (iPadOS 14) and Apple TV (tvOS 14). Apple's Macintosh computers are left out, because software can also be installed there freely, outside of Apple's App Store. At the same time, Neuenschwander also held out the prospect of improvements in privacy protection on the Mac in the future, without providing any concrete details.

The introduction of the app tracking protection is part of a comprehensive privacy initiative by Apple. Since the beginning of December, app providers have also had to publish a so-called privacy label when submitting or updating their app for the first time. Similar to ingredient lists for food, this lists all the types of data an app wants to collect from the user, such as location data, browser history, and contact information. Apple relies on the information provided by the developers for these privacy labels. (AWP/DPA)

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