September 25, 2020
It is clear that Apple's decision to implement strict user privacy protection features on iOS 14 has left those who do business in and around targeted advertising disappointed. Many voiced concerns about unfair market practices, others accused Apple of keeping “all the tracking to itself,” and some took their objections to national competition regulators. Today, the French watchdog rejected a request for lobbying groups of advertisers to stop or at least delay the roll-out of privacy-protecting features on iOS 14, so that’s the first win for Apple.
The relevant request was submitted to the regulator back in October 2020, so the agency spent several months reviewing the case and the allegations from media, internet, advertising, publishing, and mobile marketing companies. The request was to bash the “App Tracking Transparency” (ATT), which obliges apps to declare what data they would like to collect and prompt the user to decide to allow it or not.
The French Data Protection office was also involved in the case, consulting the competition authority accordingly. The investigation has been concluded, and the official conclusion is that Apple isn’t favoring itself through ATT, is not discriminating against third-parties, and is generally moving in favor of people’s privacy. As such, and no matter the negative impact that this system may have on the advertisers' business, there is no valid reason to intervene.
All in all, the agency saw no abusive action from Apple’s side, as the company has every right to set rules to access its platform and services, and that cannot be considered anti-competitive by itself. From the perspective of GDPR, Apple’s ATT system actually gives users more power to control the use of their personal data, so it is legally compliant, even if there is no obligation to implement such an aggressive system.
To be clear, the French authority will continue to investigate whether Apple is actually achieving any kind of competitive edge through ATT, but for now, the urgent interim measures request submitted by the advertisers has been rejected.