Apple Confirms Commitment to App Tracking Transparency in Letter Condemning Facebook's Data Collection [Updated]

Apple in iOS 14 is planning to introduce a new App Tracking Transparency feature that will let users know when companies want to track them across apps and website. Following outcry from developers like Facebook and ad networks unprepared for the change, Apple delayed the implementation of the anti-tracking functionality until early 2021.

iOS14AntitrackFacebookSadfeature
Eight civil society organizations recently sent a letter [PDF] to Apple expressing disappointment over the feature's delay, and Apple today penned a strongly worded response confirming its commitment App Tracking Transparency.

Apple says that it too is concerned about users being tracked without their consent and having their data bundled and resold by advertising networks. Tracking across apps and websites owned by multiple companies and data sold by data brokers can be "invasive and "creepy," according to Apple.

Too often, information is collected about you on an app or website owned by one company and combined with information collected separately by other companies for targeted advertisements and advertising measurement. Sometimes your data is even aggregated and resold by data brokers, which are third parties you neither know nor interact with.

Facebook and other ad networks have complained that Apple's anti-tracking efforts are anticompetitive and will impact small businesses. Apple says it is not against the reasonable collection of user data, but wants to empower customers to make their own choices about what data is collected and how it is used.

In a statement that seems aimed directly at Facebook's complaint about the impact on small businesses, Apple says that advertising that respects privacy was the standard prior to the growth of the internet.

Advertising that respects privacy is not only possible, it was the standard until the growth of the Internet. Some companies that would prefer ATT is never implemented have said that this policy uniquely burdens small businesses by restricting advertising options, but in fact, the current data arms race primarily benefits big businesses with big data sets. Privacy-focused ad networks were the universal standard in advertising before the practice of unfettered data collection began over the last decade or so.

Apple directly calls out Facebook's advertising practices further in the letter after highlighting its own privacy-focused policies.

By contrast, Facebook and others have a very different approach to targeting. Not only do they allow the grouping of users into smaller segments, they use detailed data about online browsing activity to target ads. Facebook executives have made clear their intent is to collect as much data as possible across both first and third party products to develop and monetize detailed profiles of their users, and this disregard for user privacy continues to expand to include more of their products.

Apple's full letter is available to read below, and the missive concludes with a statement that Apple is looking forward to implementing the App Tracking Transparency feature. There is no timeline for when the functionality will be rolling out, however.

Update: In a statement provided to MacRumors, Facebook said that Apple's letter is a "distraction" away from Apple's own privacy issues. Facebook also said that Apple is using its dominant market position to self-preference data collection while making it nearly impossible for competitors to use the same data.

"Apple is being accused of monitoring and tracking people's private data from their personal computers without their customers' knowledge through its latest update to macOS - and today's letter is a distraction from that. They have a history of this. The same happened when it was revealed that Apple had violated people's privacy and allowed millions of people's private audio to be accessed without their knowledge through a vulnerability in FaceTime. In that instance, they enforced against our internal business apps to change the topic. Sadly, we're not perfect and it worked.

The truth is Apple has expanded its business into advertising and through its upcoming iOS14 changes is trying to move the free internet into paid apps and services where they profit. As a result, they are using their dominant market position to self-preference their own data collection while making it nearly impossible for their competitors to use the same data. They claim it's about privacy, but it's about profit. Don't take our word for it. Small business advocates are speaking up about the crushing effect this will have on small business's personalized advertising. As the Executive Vice President for Policy at the Interactive Advertising Bureau said today, 'Don't be fooled: the ad industry is still in a bind & Apple's chokehold on small business is still real...Sadly, for consumers & businesses, it'll change the rules of the game in its favor.' Indeed, we are not fooled. This is all part of a transformation of Apple's business away from innovative hardware products to data-driven software and media."

Top Rated Comments

mcdawg Avatar
1 week ago
GFY, Facecrook.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Keymaster Avatar
1 week ago
It's good Apple is sticking to its guns...it's big enough that it can do this and make it stick. And, it's important that this is informing us what is going on and then allowing us to decide what to do about it. That's the opposite of Facebook et al, who want to hide what happens to our data and how it is being used to target us. I should be able to decide if I want a company to know something about me, or keep my privacy, so kudos to Apple for pushing that principle.

This issue is the reason why Facebook and Twitter do not exist on my phone, and I rarely use any of the Google tools (and make sure that they are locked down as much as possible). Facebook does not need to know where I am going, and the fact that they got that kind of information even when I tried to make sure that they didn't made it clear that they shouldn't be on my phone.

These companies don't realize that there are a lot of people like me who won't participate with them simply because of their behavior towards privacy...they would actually have more success if they respected the privacy of those of us who value it.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BootsWalking Avatar
1 week ago
When Google is paying you $12B/year they expect you to make life difficult for any competing privacy monetizers.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dannyyankou Avatar
1 week ago
You know what would be a strong condemnation? Rolling out the feature now. Don't wait, force companies to comply.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
entropys Avatar
1 week ago
Some companies that would prefer ATT is never implemented have said that this policy uniquely burdens small businesses by restricting advertising options, but in fact, the current data arms race primarily benefits big businesses with big data sets.

quite effing so.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
The Barron Avatar
1 week ago
I say Implement the new App Tracking Transparency feature NOW! Forget giving the others, especially Zuck & his cronies more time to develop clandestine workarounds for this. TOUGH! Release it Apple!
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

m1 chip macbook air pro

Kuo: Redesigned MacBooks With Apple Silicon to Launch in Second Half of 2021

Tuesday November 24, 2020 7:53 pm PST by
Apple plans to release additional MacBook models with Apple Silicon in the second half of 2021, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, as part of the company's two-year transition away from Intel processors across its Mac lineup. In a research note today, obtained by MacRumors, Kuo said that these MacBook models will feature a new design. Kuo did not specify which models these will be, but he...
Apple Watc black friday 20 sale feature

Apple Black Friday 2020: Best Apple Watch Deals [Updated]

Wednesday November 25, 2020 4:01 pm PST by
Black Friday sales have begun on a variety of products, including the Apple Watch. There are quite a few deals across the Apple Watch lineup this year, including one of the lowest price we've ever seen the Apple Watch Series 3. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the...
AirPods Pro black friday 20 sale feature 2

Black Friday 2020: AirPods Pro Reach Lowest Price Ever [Updated]

Wednesday November 25, 2020 3:22 pm PST by
Black Friday has kicked off this week, and one of the first major sales for the AirPods Pro is available right now on Walmart. You can find this deal below, along with a few other solid discounts on the regular AirPods. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site...
13 16 inch macbook pro air trio

Reliable Leaker Suggests Redesigned MacBooks in 2021 Will Include Both Apple Silicon and Intel Models

Wednesday November 25, 2020 9:15 am PST by
Reliable leaker known as "L0vetodream" has today suggested on Twitter that redesigned MacBooks coming in the second half of 2021 will include models with both Apple Silicon chips and Intel processors. The brief Tweet came in response to a MacRumors article from earlier today, which outlined a report from Ming-Chi Kuo claiming that Apple plans to release redesigned MacBook models with Apple ...
mac mini macbook pro macbook air

Apple M1 Hands-On Comparison: MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro vs. Mac Mini

Monday November 23, 2020 3:40 pm PST by
Apple's M1 Macs are out in the wild now, but ahead of the holidays, you might still be trying to figure out which one to pick up, either for yourself or as a gift for someone else. We've got all three of the new Macs available, so we thought we'd give MacRumors readers a hands-on overview of each machine in our latest YouTube video. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. ...
app store christmas icon

Apple Shutting Down App Store Connect From December 23 to December 27

Monday November 23, 2020 10:14 am PST by
Apple shuts down App Store Connect for a week around the holidays each year in an effort to give App Store staff time off from work. This year, App Store Connect will be unavailable from December 23 to December 27. With App Store Connect unavailable, Apple will not accept new apps or app updates, so all pricing changes and new app submissions need to be locked in before those dates for...
iPads black friday 20 sale feature

Apple Black Friday 2020: Best iPad Deals [Updated]

Tuesday November 24, 2020 8:51 am PST by
Black Friday is underway, and we're tracking discounts across Apple's lineup of iPads, including the current-generation 10.2-inch iPad, iPad Air, and iPad Pro. We'll be keeping this post updated as new deals appear and current ones expire, so be sure to keep checking back for the latest. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with some of these vendors. When you click a link and make a...
Target November Deals 1

Black Friday Spotlight: Target Begins Week-Long Sale With Deals on iPhone 12, Powerbeats Pro, and More

Monday November 23, 2020 8:07 am PST by
We've been tracking early Black Friday deals in our dedicated Black Friday Roundup, and in an effort to prepare our readers for the big shopping event we're highlighting sales store-by-store in the lead-up to November 27. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Target. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment, which helps us keep the site running....
new mac mini logicpro screen

M1 Macs Able to Run Up to Six External Displays Using DisplayLink

Tuesday November 24, 2020 6:53 am PST by
It is possible to run up to six external displays from the M1 Mac mini, and five external displays from the M1 MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, with the aid of DisplayPort adapters, according to YouTuber Ruslan Tulupov. This far exceeds Apple's specified limits on external displays with the M1 Macs. Apple's host of new M1 Macs are not capable of supporting as many external displays as their...
2020 apple shopping event

Apple Offering Up to $150 Gift Card With Select Products on Black Friday Through Cyber Monday

Monday November 23, 2020 2:53 am PST by
Apple has announced its annual four-day shopping event, offering customers up to a $150 Apple Store gift card with the purchase of select products between Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the United States. The gift card values in the United States are as follows: $150 for 16-inch MacBook Pro $150 for 21.5-inch iMac $50 for 13-inch MacBook Pro $50 for MacBook Air $50 for iPhone SE,...