Apple has been under pressure to tighten its grip privacy rules ahead of Monday’s annual developer conference, after experts warned that thousands of apps continued to collect data from users they had chosen not to follow.
The new rules, which went into effect in April as part of the iPhone’s iOS 14.5 software update, force apps to gain user consent to track their behavior to target it with advertising.
However, many third parties continue to use solution methods to identify users who disagree, which critics say has created confusion about what Apple’s new policies will allow.
The result is that the amount of data collected by many iPhone users may remain unchanged even after they have chosen not to track it, according to Eric Seufert, marketing strategy consultant.
“Anyone who chooses to follow up now is basically having the same level of data collected as before,” Seufert said. “Apple didn’t deter the behavior they called as so reprehensible, so they’re kind of complicit in what’s going on.”
Sean O’Brien, founder of the Yale Privacy Lab, said Apple was “extremely disingenuous” in marketing its privacy efforts without properly respecting them to protect users.
In an email seen by the Financial Times, a vendor told its customers that it was able to continue collecting data on more than 95 percent of its iOS users by collecting device and network information such as IP addresses. to determine who is a user – a tactical secret known as “fingerprinting”.
Apple banned fingerprinting, telling developers it “could not derive data from a device for the purpose of uniquely identifying it,” but experts say the policy does not apply.
In addition, some adtech groups, whose developer customers number in the tens of thousands, believe that “probabilistic” methods of identification looser are acceptable, because they are based on temporary, aggregated data rather than creating unique device IDs or permanent.
“The problem comes when you start to match that individual usage based on that individual data point from the device, and then you try to find the connection directly,” said Paul Mueller, executive director of Adjust, a “mobile measurement company. ”which helps thousands of apps manage their smartphone advertising campaigns. “But if you group users by behavior and then make these groups, it’s something we believe is in the spirit of these rules.”
Critics have said that the boost to Apple’s privacy may represent if it continues to allow such practices. “It became clear that iOS14 was much more of a marketing promotion than a real privacy initiative, unfortunately,” said Alex Austin, chief executive of Branch, a mobile marketing platform.
Apple said in a statement: “We firmly believe that users should ask for their permission before being tracked. Applications that are found to ignore the user’s choice will be rejected.”
He declined to comment on whether he makes a distinction between fingerprinting and “probabilistic correspondence.”
Seufert predicts that Apple will give clarity shortly – perhaps coinciding with its annual developer conference on Monday – which could lead to a wave of app rejections during the app review process this month.
If Apple expects much more, it risks coming under legal focus over the gap between reality and its marketing rhetoric, which has suggested that third-party ability to track users is completely blocked when users they asked to stop, O’Brien said.
He made a comparison with Google, which has faced several lawsuits after it was discovered in 2018 that it had traced the locations of its users even after they had expressly stated they would not.
“Apple may find this the hardest way, as Google has done in the past, if the company is hit with lawsuits for customers misleading them in terms of privacy,” he said. “As it has been discovered that Google’s location history has never really been wiped out in 2018, I think we will find that Apple still allows apps to pop out of the consumer life window.”