Apple’s privacy settings are unlawful, antitrust attorney tells Congress

On Thursday, antitrust attorney John Thorne told Congress that Apple’s upcoming privacy feature that will require developers to obtain user permission to track their data should be blocked by Federal regulators. 

“Apple’s conduct violates current antitrust law and threatens to inflict irreparable harm on millions of everyday Americans,” said Apple critic Thorne in his speech

He also suggested that antitrust authorities should be enabled by Congress to force Apple to delay its upcoming privacy plans.  

At the Worldwide Developer Conference 2020, Apple announced the App Tracking Transparency feature which would require developers to obtain consumer permission in order to continue tracking their data for advertising purposes. The feature will roll out in early spring with an iOS14 update, Apple announced last month.

At the event, the company also introduced App Privacy Labels which shows developers’ privacy information to users so that they can understand what data types they may have to share with before downloading an app. 

Apple required devs to submit their privacy info before December 8th and the privacy labels went live on the App Store in mid-December. Last week, the company shared additional guidance for the labels. 


Also Read: ”I checked Apple’s new privacy ‘nutrition labels.’ Many were false.”


John Thorne said that Apple’s new policy is anticompetitive, claiming that Apple will still be able to advertise based on user data. However, Apple said that it doesn’t show ads to users based on their data collected via IDFA

Meanwhile, a coalition of advocacy groups which include Amnesty International, New America’s Open Technology Institute and the Electronic Frontier Foundation support Apple’s privacy practises. 

“As Apple knows well, the widespread practice of tracking technology users’ online activity without their informed consent violates the fundamental human right to privacy,” they said last year in a letter to Apple. 

As Apple’s privacy changes are expected to leave a huge impact on the advertising industry, ad tech companies have been criticizing Apple’s privacy settings accusing the company of being anticompetitive. 

One of the most vocal critics, Facebook shared a couple of blog posts and even ran full-page newspaper ads against the privacy changes. 

Image Credit: The Verge

Thorne said that Apple’s settings will require developers ”to display a scary, false warning” while asking for user permission. ”The goal is to mislead users into withholding consent, not to encourage a fully informed decision,” he said.

However, Apple allows developers to show in-app screens to explain why they need the tracking permission in a better and more detailed way.

For example, Facebook recently started showing users a prompt in which it says that tracking will help them to show more personalized ads and ‘’support businesses that rely on ads to reach their customers.’’

Source: Facebook

Last week, a group of adtech companies including Chartboost, Fyber, InMobi, Liftoff, Singular, and Vungle formed the ‘Post-IDFA Alliance’ initiative to address mobile marketers’ concerns about Apple’s privacy changes. 

Earlier this month, Snapchat-owner Snap Inc. said that Apple’s upcoming privacy changes could hurt its ad business. 

Meanwhile, Google is also looking for an alternative to Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature, according to the people familiar with the matter. 

Written by Maya Robertson

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