Apple has been accused of “hypocrisy” and “cynicism” over its iPhone anti-tracking policies by an advertising industry trade group that includes Meta and Google as members.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is an organization that develops standards used across the industry to control and regulate online advertising. It has Google, Meta, Adobe and many other companies as members. This week, IAB CEO David Cohen had a few things to say about Apple’s approach to iPhone policies and privacy.
Speech at the annual IAB Leadership Meeting (via saying), Cohen accused Apple of “attacking” the advertising industry from within, saying Apple represented “cynicism and hypocrisy.” Cohen said: “While there is no shortage of extremists attacking our industry from the outside, there are some attacking it from the inside. Most notably, Apple exemplifies the cynicism and hypocrisy that underpin the prevailing extremist view.”
Cohen explains that while Apple requires apps to ask users for permission before tracking them through other companies’ apps and websites, the company can track its own users without accountability. Cohen is referring to a feature called App Tracking Transparency (ATT), which launched in April 2021, that forces apps to ask users for explicit consent before tracking them. “It can’t be that ‘personalization’ within the Apple ecosystem is synonymous with ‘tracking’ outside of it,” said Cohen. “It’s not really a fair fight.”
App tracking transparency popup required for apps
According to Apple’s VP of Hardware Engineering Craig Federighi, Apple requires third-party apps to ask users for permission before tracking them, but the company’s default apps don’t because they don’t track users. In conversation with the Wall Street Journal in April 2021 via ATT, Federighi stated that no Apple app would have the ATT popup because “there is no Apple app or service tracking users”. Federighi added that when Apple introduces an app or service that tracks users, it would comply with its own App Store policy.
Apple is currently facing a class action lawsuit alleging that it records users’ mobile activities without their consent and despite privacy assurances. The lawsuit alleges that Apple made “completely false” assurances that “iPhone” users had control over their data. “Apple records, tracks, collects, and monetizes analytics data — including browsing history and activity information — regardless of what safeguards or “privacy settings” consumers put in place to protect their privacy,” the lawsuit reads.
Apple’s “App Store” policy and approach to privacy is a growing concern for international organizations and companies, from the EU to Meta, Google and Spotify. This week, Spotify and others wrote a letter to the EU calling Apple’s policies “anti-competitive” and “harmful” to businesses.