Apple released a new anti-tracking tool for iPhones on Monday as a part of its new Transparency feature, which will require apps to ask for user permission before tracking their information across the web.
The app-tracking Transparency feature is available as part of the iOS 14.5 update as a tool to boost user privacy. In a video released by Apple on Monday, it touts the update as a much-needed boost to user privacy.
The narrator speaks on the benefits of data tracking, but notes that some app-trackers are taking more data than they actually need in order to be beneficial to the user.
“They collect thousands of pieces of information about you to create a digital profile that they sell to others,” the narrator admits, “This has been happening without your knowledge or permission. Your information is for sale. You have become the product.”
The narrator goes on to say that in its new update, Apple will give the user a choice in whether or not they will allow each app on their phone to track their activity. Users will simply be prompted to click “ask app not to track” or “allow” after allowing the update on their phones.
This feature was unveiled last summer and expected to be released in September, but was met with many delays over fights against the new tool. Facebook, which receives most of its revenue by selling targeted ads, criticized the update not as a tool of privacy but a tool of profit.
“It will force businesses to turn to subscriptions and other in-app payments for revenue, meaning Apple will profit and many free services will have to start charging or exit the market,” Facebook’s vice president of ads and business products Dan Levy said in a blog post in December.
Facebook and Apple, two of the largest tech companies, have very different business models. Facebook functions off of providing free online services but at the cost of selling user data to corporate subscribers; Apple relies less on selling data and more on charging consumers for exclusive products. Both companies rely heavily on each other on expanding consumer reach through their platforms.
In Europe, Apple has faced many challenges related to its update from other advertising groups arguing that the new update would create additional, unfair trading obligations for app developers. According to reports from The Hill, in March, the National Commission on Informatics and Liberty (CNIL), France’s antitrust watchdog, rejected this idea, saying that the launch of the new feature “did not appear as an abusive practice.”
The German Advertising Federation said in a press release on Monday that it filed an antitrust complaint against Apple, claiming that the tech giant was abusing its market power and violates the antitrust law through the launch of its anti-tracking feature.
“With these unilaterally imposed measures, Apple effectively excludes all competitors from processing commercially relevant data in the Apple ecosystem. At the same time, however, the group is excluding its own [advertising] services from the planned changes and collecting considerable amounts of user data itself,” the Federation said in the release.
According to The Hill, in response to the German complaint, Apple defended its update in a statement saying that the data belongs to users, and that they should have a choice in whether or not to share it.
“With iOS 14, we’re giving users the choice whether or not they want to allow apps to track them by linking their information with data from third parties for the purpose of advertising, or sharing their information with data brokers," the company said in a statement.
Some netizens have cheered on the update, claiming that it is a huge move towards privacy transparency and encouraging users to download it. Ranking Digital Rights is one of the biggest advocates to push for the update and has called it a huge move for human rights.
Aaaand update!— Ulrike Franke (@RikeFranke) April 26, 2021
Apple's iOS 14.5 update for iPhones and iPads which is launched *today* includes a new privacy tool, called App Tracking Transparency, which could give us more control over how our data is shared.#SurveillanceCapitalismhttps://t.co/ZckiIkf99O
Apple’s iOS 14.5 is completely game changing for iPhone privacy—Straight Talking Cyber tells you what to expect and why it matters, including the App Tracking Transparency privacy feature https://t.co/SBrMfLdiWX pic.twitter.com/0aHmblkCbt— Forbes (@Forbes) April 24, 2021
The update also includes an updated Face ID that can unlock your phone even with a mask on, over 200 new emojis, dual-sim 5G global support and more.