Apple’s app tracking transparency is currently under investigation – here’s why

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Germany’s national competition regulator, the Bundeskartellamt, has announced that it has initiated proceedings against Apple over its Application Tracking Transparency Framework.

First introduced in April last year alongside iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5, the iPhone maker’s App Tracking Transparency Framework requires all apps to first ask for consent before tracking. track a user’s activity on other apps and websites. At the same time as MacRumors (opens in a new tab) points out that apps that want to track a user based on their devices’ unique advertising IDs must also obtain permission before doing so.

Under its new procedure, the Bundeskartellamt will investigate whether Apple’s tracking rules and anti-tracking technology harm competition or give the company an unfair advantage in the mobile advertising business.

Apple wouldn’t be subject to its own app tracking transparency framework

iOS 14.5 App Tracking Transparency

(Image credit: Apple)

Although Apple has said its app tracking transparency is designed to protect its users from web tracking and not to benefit its own company, the Bundeskartellamt’s preliminary findings show that the company itself is not not subject to its new rules.

Bundeskartellamt President Andreas Mundt provided further information on the matter in a Press release (opens in a new tab) announcing the procedure, saying:

“A company like Apple that is able to unilaterally set rules for its ecosystem, especially for its app store, should establish pro-competitive rules. We have reason to doubt this is the case when we see that Apple’s rules apply to third parties, but not to Apple itself. This would allow Apple to favor its own offerings or hinder other companies. “

This is not the first time that the Bundeskartellamt has examined Apple for anti-competitive practices. In June last year, the competition regulator launched a antitrust probe (opens in a new tab) into the company’s use of preinstalled apps, in-app purchases, its App Store and more following similar investigations against Facebook, Amazon and Google.

Ideal for consumers but not for advertisers

Generic advertisements displayed on the screens of a generic smartphone and tablet.

(Image credit: BestForBest/Shutterstock)

Being able to quickly stop apps from tracking you on other apps and across the web with just one click has been great for iPhone and iPad users looking to further protect their privacy. However, the same cannot be said for advertisers.

While many advertisers have been impacted by the rollout of Apple’s app tracking transparency framework, Facebook has been the most vocal about the change. According to a report by Mobile development memo (opens in a new tab) analyst Eric Suefert in January said the social media giant’s advertising revenue could be hit by 7% due to its implementation.

Even before app tracking transparency rolled out to the general public, Facebook said in a blog post (opens in a new tab) that Apple’s new framework would negatively impact small businesses that rely on advertising to stay open. The company also said the framework is anti-competitive because it gives Apple’s mobile advertising business a major advantage on iOS and iPadOS devices.

We’ll have to wait and see what the Bundeskartellamt proceedings reveal, but Apple is unlikely to change course given the success of its ongoing privacy policy.

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