Apple blocks Chinese apps' attempt to work around App Tracking Transparency rules

App Store on iPhone
App Store on iPhone (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • Chinese firms tried to bypass Apple's app tracking rules by using an alternative to IDFA.
  • Apple has since blocked app updates that include that alternative tracking mechanism.

Apple has blocked an attempt by some Chinese companies to bypass App Tracking Transparency rules by using the Chinese Advertising ID (CAID )instead of Apple's Identifier For Advertisers (IDFA).

Apple's IDFA is designed to prevent advertising companies and developers from tracking people, instead only allowing them to track a unique identifier. That then progressed to App Store Transparency rules that meant apps must ask for permission before doing any tracking at all. That's causing obvious problems for ad companies, with some Chinese firms trying to bypass the problem altogether by using a different tracking mechanism — CAID.

According to a new Financial Times article, Apple got wind of the move and snapped back — blocking some updates to apps that used CAID. Chinese firms had gambled on Apple not wanting to put the ban hammer down on big Chinese corporations for fear of upsetting one of its biggest cash cows, but it seems that gamble has not paid off.

"The Chinese app ecosystem was collectively baiting the bull with CAID, under the theory that Apple couldn't afford to ban every major app in the market," said Alex Bauer, head of product marketing at adtech group Branch. "Apple called their bluff, and seems to have reasserted control over the situation by aggressively rapping knuckles on early adopters, before the consortium gained any real momentum."

It's now back to the drawing board for companies looking to circumvent Apple's privacy protection systems — something that seems like a fool's errand at this point in time.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too. Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.