Apple investigation urged over "harmful" data tracking built into iPhone

Ios 14.5 App Tracking Transparency Hero
Ios 14.5 App Tracking Transparency Hero (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

What you need to know

  • Apple and Google could be in trouble over claims of anticompetitive practices when it comes to advertising.
  • Four Democrat lawmakers are urging the FTC to investigate both companies.
  • They claim that Apple and Google have created harmful practices by building tracking into their platforms.

Four Democrat lawmakers have reportedly called on the FTC to investigate Apple and Google over creating harmful advertising tracking and IDs on their platforms.

WSJ reports:

Four Democratic lawmakers called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Apple Inc. AAPL 2.27%▲ and Alphabet Inc.'s GOOG 4.16%▲ Google, alleging the companies engage in unfair and deceptive practices by enabling the collection and sale of mobile-phone users' personal information.Apple and Google "knowingly facilitated these harmful practices by building advertising-specific tracking IDs into their mobile operating systems," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to FTC chair Lina Khan sent on Friday.

While Apple limited IDFA tracking with App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14, the lawmakers note that prior to this Apple enabled the tracking by default, burying the option beneath "confusing phone settings" if they wanted to switch it off.

The letter says such identifiers "have fueled the unregulated data broker market by creating a single piece of information linked to a device that data brokers and their customers can use to link to other data about consumers" and that while these are technically anonymous they can easily be linked to individual users claiming "it is often possible to easily identify a particular consumer in a dataset of 'anonymous' location records."

The letter says that individuals seeking abortions are at a particular risk of privacy harm in the wake of Roe v. Wade claiming "Prosecutors in states where abortion becomes illegal will soon be able to obtain warrants for location information about anyone who has visited an abortion provider."

The letter says that both Apple and Google should be investigated over their roles "in transforming online advertising into an intense system of surveillance that incentivizes and facilitates the unrestrained collection and constant sale of Americans' personal data."

Apple was not immediately available for comment.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9