Apple Warns Chinese Tech Companies Not to Circumvent App Tracking Transparency Rules

Apple is cracking down on Chinese tech companies that are working on ways to get around upcoming App Tracking Transparency rules, reports Financial Times.

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Starting in iOS 14.5, Apple plans to begin requiring app developers to obtain express user permission before accessing an iPhone's advertising identifier or IDFA, and earlier this week, news suggested that the state-backed China Advertising Association was testing a tool to skirt Apple's rules.

Apple on Thursday sent warnings to at least two Chinese app developers using methods to track app usage without user permission. "We found that your app collects user and device information to create a unique identifier for the user's device," reads Apple's email, which says that the developer must update the app to comply with App Store rules within 14 days or risk its removal from the ‌App Store‌.

According to Financial Times, the app developer in question was using a tool called CAID, which was developed by the aforementioned China Advertising Association. The China Advertising Association this week said that CAID it is not "in opposition" to Apple's privacy policy, but that may not be accurate given the warnings that Apple sent out today.

A Chinese marketing industry veteran told Financial Times that "big and small firms" in China are all considering CAID, but Apple's recent actions "will put a stop to these tests." Some of the biggest tech companies in China, such as Baidu, ByteDance, and Tencent, are all testing or implementing CAID to identify users.

ByteDance, for example, has recommended that developers use its SDK to issue CAID1 and CAID2 identifiers. One is based on a user's IP address and the other is based on the phone's IMEI, which is a unique identification number. The CAID1 and CAID2 identifiers violate Apple's rules because they do not ask for user permission before collecting this data. ByteDance has also recommended that developers use "fingerprinting and probabilistic matching" to identify users, which is also against the ‌App Store‌ Guidelines for App Tracking Transparency.

The China Advertising Association said that it is developing additional services that will collect and store personal data from users to create a "fingerprint" for each person. Any app that uses the CAID system will collect user data and send it to a central server to create a CAID identifier that will be used for cross-app user identification purposes. The CAA claims that users can opt out of CAID, but by Apple's definitions, it is not allowed in the first place.

Tech experts believe that Chinese apps plan to tweak their apps in "numerous ways" to get past Apple's ‌App Store‌ review team, with one likening it to a "cat-and-mouse" game. Apple has said multiple times that apps that disregard user preference when it comes to ad tracking will be rejected, which could lead to difficulties with Chinese companies and the Chinese government going forward.

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Top Rated Comments

1258186 Avatar
43 months ago
Tim Cook will do what the CCP tell him to do.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
contacos Avatar
43 months ago

A bit off topic, but China does not allow non-Chinese applications... Why do we?
cuz China managed to make everyone dependent on them. Why do you think everyone is being so quiet about their camps. And people wonder how the Nazis could operate their concentration camps for so long. Ignorance and blind eyes are a bliss when you are in business with them
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
LFC2020 Avatar
43 months ago
I'm 100% certain Tim Cook will bend over for china like he always does.
Score: 22 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Rafterman Avatar
43 months ago
I know the market is too big and Apple would never even consider it (especially considering all the products assembled there), but in a perfect world, Apple should just pull out of China. Let Google have it. More trouble than it's worth.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
GuruZac Avatar
43 months ago
Apple is so reliant on China they don't really have any leverage to enforce much of anything do they?
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Naraxus Avatar
43 months ago

I'm 100% certain Tim Cook will bend over for china like he always does.
Oh ofc he will. Soon as Xi Jinping hears about this warning you can bet Cook will issue a statement saying "Certain apps" will be exempt from the new rules.

His duplicity and hypocrisy knows no bounds.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)