Financial Times: iOS ‘App Tracking Transparency’ Loopholes Benefit Facebook and Snap


Financial Times: iOS ‘App Tracking Transparency’ Loopholes Benefit Facebook and Snap

Financial Times: iOS ‘App Tracking Transparency’ Loopholes Benefit Facebook and Snap

News unit EMGblog.com : Apple announced in April 2021 the launch of a feature called “App Tracking Transparency” or ATT (abbreviated App Tracking Transparency) in iOS. A month later, Apple tried to remind users of the importance of this new feature by releasing a promotional video. In this video, you can see an annoyed man whose daily activities are under the microscope of many strangers. After some time, this person will notice this option on their iPhone screen: Ask App Not to Track. By clicking on this option, all the strangers who are observing his activity will disappear at once.

Target Apple’s release of this promotional video conveys this message to customers: by choosing an iPhone, you choose the security of your privacy. Due to this feature – which was activated with the iOS 14.5 update on iPhone and iPad – the user can deny the possibility of their data being tracked by applications. Hearing this, you will surely praise Apple for this and praise the iPhone for its high security. But the story is not as simple as you think.

According to a report on Wednesday, December 8, 2021 (December 17, 1400) by the Financial Times Published, apparently the “App Tracking Transparency” feature has loopholes or in other words, loopholes, and now applications like Facebook and Snap are using From these openings, they continue to collect user data and sell this data for advertising purposes.

According to Apple’s rules for “App Tracking Transparency”, developers do not have the right to track users and cannot link user or device data between different apps or services. But the problem is that Apple’s rules do not explicitly define the word linking, and this has made it possible for the developer to track the user’s data (even after the user revokes this permission from the application by selecting the Ask App Not to Track option).

Of course, it can also be seen from this point of view that the developers’ understanding of Apple’s rules is that if the data is anonymized and aggregated after collection and to provide Advertising to groups (and not individuals) will be fine. Snap, for example, has explicitly stated that it plans to collect data from its 360 million users — even users who have not allowed the app to track data — to help advertisers run ad campaigns more fully. In justifying this action, Snap mentioned that any type of data related to individuals is first anonymized and then grouped.

Similarly, Facebook has collected user data and sold it with the same reasoning. According to Sheryl Sandberg, Meta’s chief operating officer, Facebook’s social media group has been working on a multi-year effort to revamp its advertising infrastructure and is using anonymized and aggregated data to achieve that goal.

As mentioned, apps like Facebook and Snap are considered Apple to prevent developers from collecting data to uniquely identify users. This means that by seeing “signals” from an iPhone at a group level, developers can use those signals to serve ads to groups (rather than individuals).

This way of tracking data has gradually become a normal and accepted rule. Oren Kaniel, CEO of the AppsFlyer platform, said that when his company introduced a similar feature in July 2020 as a “security-focused” tool based on aggregated metrics, it was met with a flood of backlash from across the ecosystem. But now we see that these collective solutions are in place by default for 95% of the customers of this platform. According to Connell, “the market has fundamentally changed their mind. Apple or not. Apple has refused to comment on this, but in a thoughtful move, it has likened the category of security to the North Star. With this analogy, Apple wants to refer to the concept that instead of drawing a narrow road for developers, it has set a general destination for them.

Cory Munchbach (Cory Munchbach), the chief operating officer of the BlueConic platform, believes that Apple should refrain from a strict interpretation of these rules, because otherwise, it would cause a severe disruption in the ecosystem. We will see mobile ads. According to him, Apple cannot destroy its top applications (from the point of view of user consumption), because this work will end up at the expense of iOS.

For anyone who has a strict interpretation of Apple’s rules, the above solutions are a violation of the security that was promised to iOS users. Lockdown Privacy, one of the ad tracker blocking apps, called Apple’s security and privacy policy useless and claimed that the “App Tracking Transparency” feature cannot prevent other apps from tracking data. Lockdown Privacy conducted various tests on top apps and found that in almost all cases, personal data and device information is still being sent to trackers.

But companies that collect user data and track them also have reasons for doing so. According to these companies, the leak of information such as the user’s IP address or his location is simply because some applications cannot continue to work without such information. Advertising companies need to know some specific information – such as the user’s language or screen size – otherwise the user experience of that app will turn out to be very inappropriate.

Of course, there are also dangers in this. On the face of it, non-apps are allowed to use user-level data (provided, of course, that they pledge not to misuse the data). But the truth is that Apple is actually relying on groups that Apple CEO Tim Cook called speculators who are only looking to fill their pockets.

At the end, it should be noted that the above does not mean that the “App Tracking Transparency” feature is useless. Previously, the Financial Times had found out in one of its investigations that after the activation of this feature in iOS, the collections of Snap, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube together suffered a loss equivalent to 10 billion dollars. With that said, there is certainly a market for advertising based on this data. But it is worth pondering that a company like Apple – which has always claimed to support its users – cannot prevent companies from collecting data.

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