App Tracking Transparency VideoSource: Apple

What you need to know

  • Apple made big privacy changes to iOS 14 recently.
  • A new report says measures that let users opt out of tracking are being subverted by third parties.
  • Workarounds are apparently letting companies access nearly all the data they could before, undermining the system.

A new report claims that Apple's recent iOS 14 privacy changes are being subverted by third-party workarounds.

From the Financial Times:

Apple has come under pressure to tighten its new privacy rules ahead of its annual developers' conference on Monday, after experts warned that thousands of apps were continuing to collect data from users who had opted out of tracking... many third parties are continuing to use workaround methods to identify users who do not consent, which critics argue has created confusion over what Apple's new policies allow.

The report cites marketing strategy consultant Eric Seufert who reportedly stated that anyone who has opted out of tracking in iOS 14.5 and beyond " is basically having the same level of data collected as they were before". Seufert further claimed that Apple hadn't deterred the behavior it was criticizing so was in fact "complicit in it happening." One vendor cited in the report told clients it could still collect data on more than 95% of iOS users by identifying users through IP addresses and more, known as fingerprinting. This method is explicitly banned from Apple who say developers can't collect data from a device for the purpose of uniquely identifying it, but the report says that the policy isn't being enforced.

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In a statement, Apple said "We believe strongly that users should be asked for their permission before being tracked. Apps that are found to disregard the user's choice will be rejected."

The report postulates that Apple may clarify things at WWDC 2021 later this week, possibly leading to a wave of banned apps going forward.