iOS 14.5 privacy features result in antitrust complaints in Germany

iOS 14.5 privacy features result in antitrust complaints in Germany

Several media and advertising companies have filed an antitrust complaint against Apple with the Federal Cartel Office in Germany. With the introduction of iOS 14.5, Apple has tightened its data protection regulations. These companies fear that their businesses will be adversely affected and accused Apple of abuse, as Apple's very own services would most probably be exempt from similar rules, hence resulting in an unfair competitive advantage.

Eight companies have filed the antitrust complaint against Apple to date. They see themselves as vulnerable to unfair competition. With iOS 14.5, the company or app developer would have to obtain permission from iOS users to track them across different services and websites. These companies fear that many users would object to this request,  and this would most likely result in heavy losses for their advertising business.

Apple services allegedly exempted from new privacy policy

The accusation hurled by these companies (comprising the Central Association of the German Advertising Industry ZAW, the Organisation of Media Agencies OMG, as well as publishing associations BDZV and VdZ, among others), is that Apple would ensure their services would be exempted from these new data protection mechanisms.

In essence, it will remove all competition from the game board in one fell swoop, preventing them from mining commercially relevant data of users within the Apple ecosystem. Imagine Apple itself collecting significant amounts of user data for their use in return. Rather nefarious, don't you think so?

According to Tagesschau.de, Apple countered that accusation that it strongly believes "privacy is a fundamental human right." Such data belongs to the users and they should be able to decide for themselves how they want their data to be used, and by whom. Apple also cited support from government agencies and data privacy advocates when they worked on this feature.

New features in iOS 14.5 that launched on April 26, 2021

Apple is rolling out the stricter privacy policies in the next iOS and iPadOS update. This rollout kicked off yesterday, and if you are curious whether your iPhone will receive this major iOS update, have a look at our iOS 14.5 update tracker

For app developers, this is bad news indeed. For them to deliver personalized ads to users, they will have to  obtain prior permission. We recently covered just how much this loophole is being abused by advertisers and data brokers alike. Such data brokers can collect up to 5,000 data items about a single user - and mostly without their knowledge or consent, even when the respective apps are not being used.

My final opinion: Is ATT now a curse or a blessing?

The new "App Tracking Transparency" (ATT) framework carries many potential benefits for users, that much is clear. On the other hand, it also poses danger to several industries - including us as NextPit.

However, in my view, there needs to be a new, better way of handling our data. The practice that has emerged on the web across the last decade cannot continue like this. We need a different way to deal with our data. The fact that large companies have been able to peer into every aspect of our lives and amass such a gigantic database that earns them well over $100 billion annually is a frightening thought to me.

Yes, it would be an abuse of power if Apple alone were to silently collect our data and then proceed to monetize it. Apple's business model is not to sell data, but - on the contrary - to sell hardware that is usually priced well above the rest of its competition. Such a pricing structure can only be achieved if customers were to fully trust the company. Hence, it would be to Apple's detriment if they betray that trust.

Anyone who has ever set up Apple products knows that Apple always asks if you want to share your usage data anonymously to improve its products, or if you want to share your location. Sensitive, personal data is never sent directly to Apple, but remains encrypted on the iPhone or iPad.

So, I'm curious to see the reaction of the powers-that-be, which, by the way, commented on the antitrust complaint with a nonchalant "we'll take a look at that first." For us users, I hope the Wild, Wild West era of data collection is over. As for us in the media industry, hopefully we can think of and build newer and better business models.

We need a shift in online ethics, we really do! What do you think?

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  • Privacy is coming, with or without the OS playing along.

    I expect this will drive many sites to require membership to view the content to try and monetize the membership more whether through paid membership or collected and sold info. I personally don't find this an attractive model. To a degree, this is what facebook does now and they seem to be having more and more issues with membership leaving.