Report: iOS Users Who Opt-Out of App Tracking Continue to Be Tracked by Facebook and Snapchat

"Loose" interpretations of Apple's privacy policies allow apps such as Facebook and Snapchat to continue tracking users for targeted advertising even when they have asked to not be tracked, The Financial Times reports.

generic tracking prompt green
In May, Apple launched its App Tracking Transparency feature that allows users to opt-out of being tracked across apps and websites for advertising purposes. Seven months after Apple introduced the feature, companies such as Snapchat and Facebook have purportedly been allowed to continue sharing user-level signals from iPhones, providing that data is anonymized and aggregated rather than directly linked to specific user profiles.

The Financial Times said that Apple's position was the result of "an unacknowledged shift that lets companies follow a much looser interpretation of its controversial privacy policy." Apple has instructed developers that they "may not derive data from a device for the purpose of uniquely identifying it," which developers have interpreted to mean that they can still observe "signals" and behaviors from groups of users instead, enabling these groups to be shown tailored ads anyway.

Apple has not explicitly endorsed these techniques, but they allow third parties to track and analyze groups of users regardless of whether or not they have given consent to user-level tracking. In addition, Apple reportedly continues to trust apps to collect user-level data such as IP address, location, language, device, and screen size, even though some of this information is passed onto advertisers.

Snapchat investors were told that the company plans to share data from its 306 million users, including those who ask the app "not to track," with advertisers so that they can gain "a more complete, real-time view" of the success of ad campaigns. Likewise, Facebook is undertaking a "multiyear effort" to rebuild ad infrastructure "using more aggregated or anonymized data," according to the company's operations chief.

In June, Apple faced pressure to tighten the rules around App Tracking Transparency after it was found that third parties were using workarounds to identify users who do not consent to be tracked, but there have been no changes around looser "probabilistic" methods of user identification.

Top Rated Comments

PBG4 Dude Avatar
11 months ago
It’s crap like this that’s stopped me from using apps. I’m more and more just browsing 100% in incognito mode so no cookies are ever saved. I’ve also stopped using FB and insta altogether but that’s a different topic.
Score: 53 Votes (Like | Disagree)
antiprotest Avatar
11 months ago
So on Apple devices even explicit privacy features might give only a false sense of security. Apple is getting looser and looser on privacy and security, and continuing to add self-sabotaging features like CSAM.

Wouldn't be surprised to hear one of these days that Apple has been selling private data of a billion users, only that they have a different interpretation of what is "selling" or "data" or "private" or "user".
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
imDavid Avatar
11 months ago
So does that mean when Facebook cried to the public about Apple blocking tracking, that it was all a ruse?

Shocked, I say.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
contacos Avatar
11 months ago
That’s why I deleted the Instagram app and only use the web version with a Home Screen favorite. Perks? No ads and no stupid shopping icon! Thanks to my Adblocker. You can barely tell it isn’t the App either. The only downside is the limited photo upload functionalities for stories
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mookc1 Avatar
11 months ago
I use neither of the apps, but I'm sure there are others. Apple needs to continue to tighten this up.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TechRunner Avatar
11 months ago
I've resigned myself to the fact that, when I'm online, someone is tracking/monetizing it in some way. Having said that, I've dumped FB, IG and others to reduce the amount of tracking taking place.

Tor run through a VPN is looking better every day.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

Google Logo Feature Slack

Google Launching Privacy Sandbox to Limit Ad Tracking on Android, Calls 'Blunt Approaches' Like Apple's 'Ineffective'

Wednesday February 16, 2022 7:50 am PST by
Google has announced plans to strengthen user privacy on Android with a new initiative that will put an end to cross-app tracking on Android over the next two years, making it more difficult for advertisers to track users across other apps. In a blog post, Google announced a multi-year project named "Privacy Sandbox" that introduces "more private advertising solutions" for mobile apps. The...
Facebook Feature

Facebook Reports Record Ad Revenue for Q2 2021, Despite Apple's iOS Privacy Changes

Thursday July 29, 2021 2:31 am PDT by
Undeterred by Apple's recent anti-tracking privacy changes, Facebook continues to rake in billions in advertising revenue, as evidenced by its latest fiscal 2021 second quarter results announced Wednesday. On the company's Q2 earnings call, the social network revealed it had accumulated $28 billion in ad revenue, representing a 56% year-on-year increase. That saw Facebook more than double...
oculus health app

Oculus Quest 2 Movement Data Will Sync With Apple Health App Starting in April

Thursday March 10, 2022 11:07 am PST by
Facebook parent company Meta today announced an upcoming fitness update for the Oculus Quest 2, which will allow fitness data captured during VR workouts to be integrated with the Apple Health app. Right now, when people exercise with interactive games like Liteboxer, Beat Saber, or Dance Central using the Oculus Quest 2, the data can only be viewed on the Oculus Mobile app on the headset...
tracking disabled ios 14 5

Apple Rolling Out Fix for Greyed Out App Tracking Transparency Toggle

Wednesday May 19, 2021 1:54 am PDT by
Apple appears to be ironing out a bug that meant some iOS 14.5 users were unable to adjust the "Allow Apps to Request to Track" setting that was rolled out as part of Apple's App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature. In iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5, and tvOS 14.5, ATT requires that apps ask for permission before tracking your activity across other companies' apps and websites for targeted...
generic tracking prompt orange

Apple's App Tracking Transparency Framework Causing Advertisers to Spend More Money Targeting Android Users

Monday July 5, 2021 4:42 am PDT by
Mobile advertisers are beginning to spend significantly more money targeting Android users thanks to Apple's implementation of a framework on iOS, severely impacting the amount of data companies can collect about users on iPhone and iPad. As reported by The Wall Street Journal, following the April roll-out of ATT, or the App Tracking Transparency framework, which requires that all apps on...
craig wwdc 2021 privacy

Report Highlights How Top Apple Executives Disagreed Over How Far iOS Anti-Tracking Measures Should Go

Monday March 14, 2022 7:19 am PDT by
A new report has highlighted how three top prominent executives initially found themselves at odds in early deliberations about Apple's App Tracking Transparency framework. According to the report from The Information, the executives who disagreed over how far Apple should go in protecting user privacy in digital advertising included Apple's Craig Federighi, who oversees software...
nba tracking prompt

Apple Now Rejecting App Updates That Defy iOS 14.5 App Tracking Transparency Rules

Thursday April 1, 2021 4:49 pm PDT by
Apple has begun rejecting app updates that do not comply with the App Tracking Transparency rules that the company is enforcing starting with iOS 14.5, according to a new report from Forbes. Apps must ask for permission to access the advertising identifier or IDFA of a user's iPhone in order to track them across apps for ad targeting purposes, a rule that apps will need to comply with when...
apple privacy

More Users Trust Amazon and Google to Handle Their Personal User Data Than Apple, Survey Suggests

Wednesday December 22, 2021 7:29 am PST by
According to a new survey, more users trust Amazon and Google to handle their personal user data and internet browsing activity than Apple, while users overwhelmingly distrust Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram. The survey conducted by The Washington Post sampled over 1,000 internet users in the U.S. about how much they trust Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube, Google, Microsoft,...

Popular Stories

USB C Over Lightning Feature

EU Passes Law to Switch iPhone to USB-C by End of 2024

Tuesday October 4, 2022 3:30 am PDT by
The European Parliament today voted overwhelmingly in favor of enforcing USB-C as a common charging port across a wide range of consumer electronic devices, including the iPhone and AirPods, by the end of 2024. The proposal, known as a directive, forces all consumer electronics manufacturers who sell their products in Europe to ensure that a wide range of devices feature a USB-C port. This...
General iOS 16 Feature Yellow

10 New iOS 16 Features Coming Later This Year

Monday October 3, 2022 2:41 pm PDT by
iOS 16 was released to the public three weeks ago with a customizable Lock Screen, the ability to edit iMessages, improvements to Focus modes, and much more. And in the coming months, iPhone and iPad users have even more new features to look forward to. We've rounded up 10 new features coming to the iPhone and iPad later this year, according to Apple. Many of the features are part of iOS...
ipad pro m1 feature

Gurman: Apple Event This October Remains Unlikely, No Touch ID for iPhone 15

Sunday October 2, 2022 6:41 am PDT by
Apple is developing new iPad Pro, Mac, and Apple TV models, and at least some of these products will be released in October, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. However, Gurman continues to believe that Apple is unlikely to hold an event this month. In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter, Gurman said "the big iPhone 14 unveiling last month was probably it for Apple in 2022 in...
iOS 16

Apple Preparing iOS 16.0.3 With More Bug Fixes Following iPhone 14 Launch

Monday October 3, 2022 7:53 am PDT by
iOS 16.0.2 was released last month with several bug fixes for iPhone 14 issues, excessive copy and paste permission prompts, and more. Now, evidence suggests that Apple is planning to release iOS 16.0.3 with additional bug fixes. Evidence of an upcoming iOS 16.0.3 software update has shown up in MacRumors analytics logs, which have been a reliable indicator in the past. There are several...
Apple SIM Card

Apple SIM No Longer Available for Activating New Cellular Data Plans on iPads

Sunday October 2, 2022 8:04 am PDT by
As of October 1, Apple SIM is no longer available for activating new cellular data plans on supported iPad models, according to an Apple support document. Introduced in 2014, the Apple SIM was designed to allow iPad users to activate cellular data plans from multiple carriers around the world. Initially, the Apple SIM was a physical nano-SIM card, but it was embedded inside later iPad Pro...
maxresdefault

Video: AirPods Pro 2 vs. Bose QuietComfort II

Monday October 3, 2022 12:50 pm PDT by
Apple on September 23 officially launched the second-generation version of the AirPods Pro, introducing updated Active Noise Cancellation, Adaptive Transparency, improved sound, and more. Right around the same time, Bose introduced new QuietComfort II earbuds with many similar features, so we thought we'd compare the two to see which has the edge. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for ...
General YouTube Feature 1

You May Soon Need to Be a YouTube Premium Subscriber to Watch 4K Videos

Monday October 3, 2022 4:29 am PDT by
YouTube may make watching videos in 4K quality on the platform exclusive to only YouTube Premium subscribers, according to screenshots posted by users on Twitter and Reddit. On Reddit (1,2) and Twitter, some users have started to recently notice that on iOS, and presumably across other platforms also, YouTube is now saying that in order to watch videos in 4K, the user must be a paying...
dynamic island alan dye

Apple Executives Talk About iPhone 14 Pro's Dynamic Island in New Interview

Sunday October 2, 2022 10:48 am PDT by
In a new interview, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, and Apple's vice president of human interface design, Alan Dye, sat down to discuss the thinking behind the iPhone 14 Pro's Dynamic Island and how it was developed. During the interview with the Japanese magazine Axis, Federighi, who oversees the development of iOS, said Dynamic Island represents the...