Attempts to Circumvent Apple's App Tracking Transparency Rules in China Reportedly Fail to Gain Traction

Apple's crackdown on Chinese apps that tried to bypass its new privacy rules has successfully thwarted a coordinated effort to create a new way of tracking iPhones for advertising in the country, according to a new report today.

app tracking pop up ios 14
Introduced in iOS 14.5, Apple's App Tracking Transparency rules require apps that access an iPhone's ad identifier or IDFA must ask a user's permission before tracking is allowed. As reported by the Financial Times in March, however, the change spurred ad and tech groups in China to develop a new way of tracking users without their consent, called CAID.

Along with the state-backed China Advertising Association (CAA), tech groups led by Baidu, Tencent, and TikTok parent ByteDance began testing CAID to see if it would let them identify users even if they refused to let apps use IDFA. Aware of the tests, Apple responded by blocking updates to several Chinese apps that it had caught using CAID in App Store submissions.

According to FT's latest paywalled report, that made the groups involved in testing CAID think again, and the project has since struggled to find support in mainland China and beyond.

Several people in China and Hong Kong said that, following Apple's retaliation, CAID lost support and the whole project failed to gain traction.

"This is a clear victory for Apple, and also consumer privacy, as the tech giants of China have been forced to back down and comply with Apple's rules," said Rich Bishop, chief executive of AppInChina, a leading publisher of international software in China.

"The Chinese app ecosystem was collectively baiting the bull with CAID, under the theory that Apple couldn't afford to ban every major app in the market," added Alex Bauer, head of product marketing at adtech group Branch.

"Apple called their bluff, and seems to have reasserted control over the situation by aggressively rapping knuckles on early adopters, before the consortium gained any real momentum."

ByteDance did not respond to FT's requests for comment, while Tencent and Baidu declined to comment. Apple meanwhile simply reiterated that its "App Store terms and guidelines apply equally to all developers around the world" and that "apps that are found to disregard the user's choice will be rejected".

Despite being backed by the state-backed CAA and the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, a research institute directly under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, it's not clear if these groups had the full backing of Beijing.

Similarly, it's unknown if all the groups involved knew that use of CAID was a violation of Apple's policies, although some of those involved reportedly said they believed CAID had Apple's "stamp of approval."

Either way, it appears that Apple's early crackdown on apps that tried to circumvent App Tracking Transparency has had the intended effect of discouraging similar attempts, while successfully avoiding a showdown with the Chinese authorities over its wider use.

Note: Due to the political or social nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Political News forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

Top Rated Comments

ian87w Avatar
16 weeks ago
Good work Apple.
Now about that Zuckerberg guy's apps...
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Bug-Creator Avatar
16 weeks ago

Obviously bad but leaked by Apple to justify 1 App Store. Why can’t the platform mandate that all AppStore’s that join the platform adopt the same privacy rules and let the free-market determine price, sales and promotions?
That is, to put it nicely a rather naive idea……
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TheOldChevy Avatar
16 weeks ago

Obviously bad but leaked by Apple to justify 1 App Store. Why can’t the platform mandate that all AppStore’s that join the platform adopt the same privacy rules and let the free-market determine price, sales and promotions?
This is already the case today. You can buy an Android phone if you don't want to use the App Store.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Abazigal Avatar
16 weeks ago

Apple sure has pissed! off A LOT of companies — hitting them in their Surveillance Retail revenue.
Only a company the size and cash flow of Apple could do this. A smaller company would get knee capped. When you see negative stories in corporate media about Apple, give the above sentences some thought before assuming the story is true.
This just strengths my conviction that pro-user and anti-developer moves are but two sides of the same coin. You can’t hope to please both sides at the same time, and favouring one often comes at the expense of antagonising the other.

That’s what I like about Apple. They hold enough sway over their ecosystem that they are able to implement policies like this that benefit me, the end user, even though they know it will be unpopular with developers. And developers stay because that’s where the more lucrative user base (us iOS users) reside.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
m4mario Avatar
16 weeks ago
While government agencies are trying to tie Apple's hand's down as much as possible, Apple here is doing everything it can to protect user privacy.
People dismiss this because Apple makes money this way. But thats the point. Apple worked very hard to make this business model work. It was not a model that worked to begin with. What worked was collecting user data and Apple could have made more money if they chose that route. A company working hard to make money doing the right thing shows commitment to the cause. The truth is, when they started doing this, they had no visible way to monetize it.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
One2Grift Avatar
16 weeks ago
Apple sure has pissed! off A LOT of companies — hitting them in their Surveillance Retail revenue.
Only a company the size and cash flow of Apple could do this. A smaller company would get knee capped. When you see negative stories in corporate media about Apple, give the above sentences some thought before assuming the story is true.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

nba tracking prompt

Chinese Tech Companies Reportedly Testing New Tool to Circumvent Apple's App Tracking Transparency Rules

Tuesday March 16, 2021 4:27 am PDT by
Apple plans to begin enforcing its App Tracking Transparency changes following the release of iOS 14.5, and all apps that access an iPhone's ad identifier or IDFA will need to ask a user's permission before tracking is allowed. According to a new report by the Financial Times, however, the state-backed China Advertising Association (CAA) is testing a tool that could be used to bypass the new ...
nba tracking prompt

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

Thursday March 18, 2021 1:35 pm PDT by
Apple is cracking down on Chinese tech companies that are working on ways to get around upcoming App Tracking Transparency rules, reports Financial Times. 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...
app store blue banner

Apple's In-App Purchase Rules Are Anti-Competitive, Rules Dutch Antitrust Watchdog

Thursday October 7, 2021 1:41 pm PDT by
Apple's in-app purchase requirements are anti-competitive, the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) has decided, reports Reuters. The ACM has ordered Apple to make changes to the rules that force developers to use in-app payment options. The Dutch antitrust watchdog has been investigating Apple since 2019, and while the probe started out as a look into whether Apple's App...
nba tracking prompt green

P&G Wanted to Skirt App Tracking Transparency Rules With China Data Collection Tech [Updated]

Thursday April 8, 2021 11:39 am PDT by
Procter & Gamble Co. was one of the companies that worked with the China Advertising Association to test a new data collection tool designed to get around Apple's App Tracking Transparency rules, reports The Wall Street Journal. The state-backed China Advertising Agency developed a new method of tracking users called CAID to replace access to the IDFA or advertising identifier of an iPhone...
generic tracking prompt blue

Apps Continuing to Track Users Despite Apple's Privacy Prompt

Monday June 7, 2021 8:04 am PDT by
Apple is facing increasing pressure to tighten its App Tracking Transparency rules after it was found that third parties are using workarounds to identify users who do not consent to be tracked, according to the Financial Times. Apple rules around App Tracking Transparency, which came into effect as part of iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5, require apps to ask for consent to track users across...
iPhone 13 Feature Blue

Strong iPhone 13 Demand Sees Taiwan Suppliers Prioritize Apple Over Rivals

Wednesday September 29, 2021 4:21 am PDT by
Strong iPhone 13 demand in Taiwan and China has led Taiwanese component suppliers to prioritize production lines for Apple over rival Samsung and many Chinese mobile vendors, according to a new DigiTimes report. Taiwan-based makers of VCMs (voice coil motors), wire winding and other components of smartphone-use lens modules are giving priority to production for Apple, amid strong pre-sales of...
app store blue banner

Watchdog Investigation Finds 'Major Weaknesses' in Apple's App Store Child Safety Measures

Wednesday August 25, 2021 9:31 am PDT by
The non-profit watchdog group Campaign for Accountability today released a report revealing "major weaknesses" in Apple's App Store child safety measures that allow minors to easily access adult content such as pornography and gambling. As part of its Tech Transparency Project, the watchdog group said it set up an Apple ID for a fictitious 14-year-old user and used it to download and test 75 ...
China iCloud Feature 2

Apple's Security Compromises in China Outlined in New Report

Monday May 17, 2021 1:46 pm PDT by
Apple has been making concessions on privacy and security in order to continue building and selling its devices in China, according to an in-depth report from The New York Times. The focal point of the report is Apple's decision to comply with a 2016 law that requires all personal information and data collected in China to be kept in China, which has led Apple to build a China data center...
appstore

Kids and Teens in China Banned From Playing Online Video Games for More Than 3 Hours Per Week

Monday August 30, 2021 4:38 pm PDT by
China is implementing a new online gaming restriction that will affect children and teenagers who are under 18 years old, reports CNBC. Kids will only be able to play online games for an hour a day (8:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.) on weekends and legal holidays. Weekday gaming is prohibited. Companies that provide online game services to minors will need to comply with these rules and will not be...
maxresdefault

Apple Shares New 'Tracked' Ad With Humorous Real-World Analogy of App Tracking Transparency

Thursday May 20, 2021 9:17 am PDT by
Apple today shared a new privacy-focused ad on its YouTube channel, highlighting App Tracking Transparency on the iPhone. In the spot, a man orders a coffee, and the barista follows him out as he gets in a cab, providing his date of birth to the cab driver. The cab driver and the barista follow him throughout his day, keeping track of his whereabouts and viewing his personal data....