Apple Accused of ‘Hypocrisy’ by Ad Industry Coalition Over Its Anti-Tracking Policy

Apple has been accused of “hypocrisy” and “cynicism” over its iPhone anti-tracking policy by an ad industry trade group that includes Meta and Google as members.

appleprivacyad cleaned
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) is an organization that develops standards for use in 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 policy and privacy.

Speaking at the annual leadership meeting of IAB (via AdAge), Cohen accused Apple of “attacking the ad 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 being attacked from the inside out. Apple in particular illustrates the cynicism and hypocrisy that underpins the prevailing extremist view.”

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Cohen explained that while Apple requires apps to ask users for permission before tracking them through apps and websites owned by other companies, the company can track its own users without responsibility. Cohen is referring to a feature called App Tracking Transparency (ATT), launched in April 2021, forcing apps to ask users for explicit consent before tracking them. “It cannot be that ‘personalization’ in the Apple ecosystem equals ‘persecution’ outside of it,” Cohen said. “That’s not really a fair fight.”

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App Tracking Transparency Pop-up required for apps

Apple requires third-party apps to ask users for permission before tracking them, but the company’s stock apps don’t because they don’t track users, according to Apple’s vice president of hardware engineering Craig Federighi. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal in April 2021 about ATT, Federighi explained that no Apple app would have the ATT pop-up because “there is no Apple app or service that tracks users.” Federighi added that if Apple launched an app or service that tracked users, it would comply with its own App Store policies.

Apple is currently facing a class action lawsuit that claims users are recording their mobile activity without their consent and despite privacy assurances. The lawsuit accuses Apple of providing “grossly false” assurances that ‌iPhone‌ users are in control of their data. “Apple records, tracks, collects and monetizes analytics data—including browsing history and activity information—regardless of what security measures or ‘privacy settings’ consumers take to protect their privacy,” the lawsuit reads.

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Apple’s ‌App Store‌ policy and approach to privacy are an increasingly prominent 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 policy “anti-competitive” and “harmful” to companies.

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