Bundeskartellamt examines Apple’s tracking requirements for apps

There is initial suspicion that Apple’s tracking transparency initiative favors its own services and hinders other companies. This was announced by the authority.

 Federal Cartel Office is reviewing Apple's tracking requirements for apps

The Federal Cartel Office has one antitrust review of Apple’s Tracking Transparency Framework (ATT) initiated. There is an initial suspicion that Apple’s tracking requirements for third-party apps favor its own services and hinder other companies, the authority said on Tuesday. Major corporations like Apple, which can “unilaterally set” the rules for their platform, must also ensure that data protection functions are designed in accordance with competition, stressed Andreas Mundt, head of the Cartel Office. “There are justified doubts about this when Apple sets rules for third parties that shouldn’t apply to Apple of all people.”

Tracking opt-in for iPhone apps since iOS 14.5

The The tracking transparency initiative introduced with iOS 14.5 has now been on the market for a good year. Since then, apps can only access the advertising ID integrated by Apple in iOS with the user’s consent, in order to be able to create cross-provider profiles, for example. Since then, techniques such as fingerprinting and other functions for identifying individual devices or users have generally been prohibited for cross-provider advertising tracking – although Apple still does not seem to be taking consistent action against violations. The tracking opt-in apparently cost advertising giants like Facebook billions in sales and shook up the advertising industry as a whole. Companies that rely on online advertising for their new customer business also complained about losses.

Industry associations tried to stop the introduction of the framework in France last year. Apple’s system was “not an abusive trade practice,” said the Autorité de la Concurrence at the time. Apple has only explicitly obtained consent for its in-house advertising service and personalized advertising in the App Store since iOS 15. Apple distinguishes between advertising tracking that companies carry out with their own data sets (“first-party data”) and advertising tracking that takes place across providers (“third-party data”) – only the latter falls under Apple’s anti-tracking -Specifications.

Apple rejects allegations

The proceedings that have now been initiated follow on from proceedings by the Cartel Office that are already ongoing against Apple, which are intended to clarify whether the iPhone group has a “cross-market importance for the competition”. “In this context, the possibilities of cross-service data merging on the part of Apple itself and the choices users have regarding the processing of their data by Apple can also play a role, as well as the question of the extent to which the regulations could possibly lead to the offer of ad-supported apps for the users decreases”, explained the Bundeskartellamt.

In a statement to Mac & i, the group does not prevent companies from advertising and does not “restrict the use of data that they receive from users with their consent”. These rules apply equally to everyone, including Apple, according to the group. Apple wants to “work constructively with the Federal Cartel Office to clarify all questions”.


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