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

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.

craig wwdc 2021 privacy
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 engineering, Phil Schiller, who manages the App Store, and Eddy Cue, Apple's head of services.

In 2020, Apple rolled out App Tracking Transparency, a feature that lets users decide whether a specific app can track them across other apps and websites.

From a technical standpoint, ATT hides a user's identifier for advertisers, also known as IDFA, from apps that a user has not approved. Eric Neuenschwander, the birther of the identifier, began to raise concerns over IDFA and how it was being used by apps to unethically track users, according to the report.

Eventually, the ad industry began to use the IDFA in ways the privacy engineering team hadn't intended, building an entire tracking ecosystem around it. Unscrupulous developers started using it to gather location data on users and sell that information to data brokers for additional revenue.

Around this time, Neuenschwander privately began telling colleagues he regretted creating the IDFA, in part because others like Google followed with a similar identifier a year later, according to people who have worked with him.

Even before ATT, Apple gave users the ability to enable "Limit ad tracking" in iPhone settings. The toggle, however, was buried deep in the Settings app and often untouched by users.

Neuenschwander's team, around 2016, started to find new ways to enforce a user's choice if they enabled "Limit ad tracking," including out-right hiding the identifier from apps if a user had indicated they did not want to be tracked.

As those efforts did not curtail the improper use of IDFA, Apple's head of software engineering stepped in to move forward with what would later become known as ATT.

According to the report, the idea of ATT first came around in 2019, when Federighi told Eric Neuenschwander "to do something about IDFA." Federighi had agreed to allocate some resources of the software engineering department to those efforts, calling it a "tentpole" idea, implying it could be showcased on-stage during an event.

As those efforts were underway, Apple's executives found themselves in disagreement, according to sources cited in the report familiar with internal meetings at Apple.

Before Apple could make any such public announcement, three Apple senior vice presidents—Federighi, Cue and Schiller—had to come to a consensus about how far the feature would go in crimping tracking and how Apple could soften the expected impact the changes would have on developers.

Schiller, who runs the ‌App Store‌, was concerned over how a framework like ATT could impact the ‌App Store‌ ecosystem and mobile ads that run within apps.

Schiller and his aides warned that "if new restrictions on the IDFA resulted in users seeing fewer ads, they might download fewer apps," leading to fewer app downloads and potentially fewer in-app purchases, which Apple takes a cut of.

Cue, who was in charge of Apple's iAd network, was concerned that ATT would go too far in eliminating tracking. "Cue's team was especially sensitive to the consequences of kneecapping the IDFA," the report notes.

Federighi, on the other hand, was all-for a framework such as ATT. Federighi "oversaw a team of privacy-minded engineers who wanted to curtail the powers of an Apple tool that unscrupulous advertising companies, mobile developers and data brokers were exploiting to track the behavior of ‌iPhone‌ users," The Information reports.

The varying opinions of Apple's top executives eventually led to the final version of ATT, which offers a simple prompt to users when they first open an app on whether they wanted to be tracked or not.

generic tracking prompt blue

ATT prompt users see when they first open an app on iOS 14.5 and later

According to the report, Apple's initial idea for ATT was to let users disable tracking across all apps, but part of the concession reached by the executives was to offer a toggle for each app.

The trio eventually settled on a plan: iPhone users would have a choice of whether to opt into app tracking, which Apple executives felt was more defensible if developers and the online advertising industry pushed back, people familiar with the discussions said. They would also be able to do this on a per-app basis, which Apple executives also felt would benefit advertisers, a person familiar with the matter said. This was a big change from Apple's earlier IDFA controls, which enabled tracking across all apps by default.

In the fall of 2019, Federighi tasked members of his software engineering department to begin developing ATT and have it ready by June 2020, when Apple would officially showcase it on-stage during its Worldwide Developers Conference.

In the nine months leading up to the conference, members of Federighi's team consulted with Apple's lawyers to "tread carefully around decisions that could raise regulators' eyebrows." Federighi's team was rigorous in their planning of ATT, even debating whether "tracking" was the right choice of word and carefully designing the prompt users would see when they first open an app.

In response to the report, an Apple spokesperson told The Information that Apple's teams work collaboratively across the company "putting the same effort into privacy innovation as we put into all of our product designs, and the result is greater choice and superior products for our customers."

The Information's full report is an interesting read that details the industry response to ATT and the creation of IDFA.

Top Rated Comments

expectdelay Avatar
15 weeks ago
Thank you SO MUCH Craig Federighi for fighting for this. One of my favorite Apple developments in some time.
Score: 54 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jonnyb098 Avatar
15 weeks ago
Who else agrees Craig should be the next CEO?
Score: 54 Votes (Like | Disagree)
fwmireault Avatar
15 weeks ago
Federighi is Apple MVP SVP
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TheYayAreaLiving ? Avatar
15 weeks ago
Craig Federighi stepped it up big time. He has done an amazing job protecting Apple, consumers, and being transparent about privacy. My Favorite Apple exec. Keep up the good work. ❤️?

Please become a new CEO for Apple, already.
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
wanha Avatar
15 weeks ago
Not surprising that there is internal debate around major new ideas - it's usually a sign of a healthy company culture to disagree and debate in order to find a joint path forward.

That said, I'm glad Federghi threw his weight behind this initiative.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
xxray Avatar
15 weeks ago
Craig continues to be the best.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

iOS App Store General Feature Sqaure Complement

Sideloading Bill Would Allow 'Malware, Scams and Data-Exploitation to Proliferate,' Says Apple

Wednesday February 2, 2022 3:48 pm PST by
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will on Thursday consider the Open App Markets Act, an antitrust bill that would allow for sideloading and alternate app stores. Ahead of the meeting, Apple's head of government affairs in the Americas Tim Powderly sent a letter to committee members, urging them to reject the bill, reports Bloomberg. Powderly repeated a privacy and security argument that...
timcook

Tim Cook: Users Who Want to Sideload Apps Can Use Android, While the iPhone Experience Maximizes 'Security and Privacy'

Tuesday November 9, 2021 8:51 am PST by
Amid a heightened amount of scrutiny and tension surrounding the App Store and how users download and install apps on the iPhone, Apple CEO Tim Cook said today that customers who wish to sideload apps should consider purchasing an Android device as the experience offered by the iPhone maximizes their security and privacy. Speaking at The New York Times "DealBook" summit, Cook said that...
generic tracking prompt green

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

Wednesday December 8, 2021 5:50 am PST by
"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. 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...
tim cook mark zuckerberg

Apple's Privacy Measures to Cost Facebook $10 Billion in 2022

Thursday February 3, 2022 12:30 am PST by
Facebook has said measures being taken by Apple on iOS that make it harder for platforms and apps to track users across other apps and websites will cost its business $10 billion in 2022. Facebook yesterday reported $33.67 billion in revenue, and while higher than expected, earnings per share were shy of analyst expectations. Facebook, renamed to Meta, also offered lower guidance for the...
craig wwdc 2021 privacy

Apple's Privacy Features Have Cost Social Media Companies Nearly $10 Billion in Revenue

Monday November 1, 2021 4:42 am PDT by
As a result of its privacy features, Apple has cost social media companies including Meta, formerly known as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and YouTube, nearly $10 billion in revenue in the second half of 2021, according to an investigation by the Financial Times. The Financial Times found that most users have opted out of tracking using Apple's App Tracking Transparency (ATT) framework, a...
app store blue banner uk fixed

Apple Clashes With UK Regulator in Fierce Response to Warning That Could Require It to 'Redesign the iPhone'

Friday March 11, 2022 9:04 am PST by
Apple has aggressively defended its ecosystem in a newly-published response to the UK's competition watchdog. The UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) today published Apple's response to its Interim Report on mobile ecosystems, as well responses from dozens of other companies, including Google, Microsoft, and Epic Games. The detailed 47-page response from Apple aggressively...
iOS App Store General Feature JoeBlue

Upcoming EU Sideloading Bill Would 'Cripple the Privacy and Security Protections' iPhone Users Expect, Says Apple

Thursday March 17, 2022 10:38 am PDT by
The European Union is set to introduce new legislation as soon as this month that would significantly affect how the App Store operates in Europe, reports The Wall Street Journal. The Digital Markets Act has been in development for some time and the finalized version that could be completed as soon as this month will allow for sideloading and alternate app store options. Apple will be...
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...

Popular Stories

maxresdefault

M2 13-Inch MacBook Pro With 256GB SSD Appears Slower Than Equivalent M1 in Real-World Speed Tests

Monday June 27, 2022 1:57 pm PDT by
Benchmark testing has indicated that the 256GB variant of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with M2 chip offers slower SSD performance than its M1 equivalent, and now real-world stress testing by YouTuber Max Yuryev of Max Tech suggests that the 256GB SSD in the 13-inch MacBook Pro is also underperforming in day-to day-usage. The M2 MacBook Pro with 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM was slower than the M1 MacBook ...
M2 Pro and Max Feature

Apple's Upcoming M2 Pro Chip for High-End MacBook Pro and Mac Mini Will Reportedly Be 3nm

Monday June 27, 2022 7:31 am PDT by
TSMC will manufacture Apple's upcoming "M2 Pro" and "M3" chips based on its 3nm process, according to Taiwanese industry publication DigiTimes. "Apple reportedly has booked TSMC capacity for its upcoming 3nm M3 and M2 Pro processors," said DigiTimes, in a report focused on competition between chipmakers like TSMC and Samsung to secure 3nm chip orders. As expected, the report said TSMC will...
iPhone 11 Pro vs iPhone 14 Pro

iPhone 11 Pro vs. 14 Pro: New Features to Expect if You've Waited to Upgrade

Monday June 27, 2022 11:22 am PDT by
With many customers choosing to upgrade their iPhone every two or three years nowadays, there are lots of iPhone 11 Pro users who might be interested in upgrading to the iPhone 14 Pro later this year. Those people are in for a treat, as three years of iPhone generations equals a long list of new features and changes to look forward to. Below, we've put together a list of new features and...
original iphone 2007

15 Years Ago Today, the iPhone Went On Sale

Wednesday June 29, 2022 4:43 am PDT by
Fifteen years ago to this day, the iPhone, the revolutionary device presented to the world by the late Steve Jobs, officially went on sale. The first iPhone was announced by Steve Jobs on January 9, 2007, and went on sale on June 29, 2007. "An iPod, a phone, an internet mobile communicator... these are not three separate devices," Jobs famously said. "Today, Apple is going to reinvent the...
tesla carplay hack

Tesla Apple CarPlay Hack Updated to Work With Any Tesla Model

Monday June 27, 2022 3:38 am PDT by
Polish developer Michał Gapiński has released a new and improved version of his "Tesla Android Project" which brings Apple's CarPlay experience to more Tesla vehicles than ever before. According to Gapiński, version 2022.25.1 provides "100% functional CarPlay integration for any Tesla," and comes with several new features and bug fixes. The project now supports DRM video playback so that...
13 inch macbook pro m2 mock feature 2

Base 13-Inch MacBook Pro With M2 Chip Has Significantly Slower SSD Speeds

Sunday June 26, 2022 2:52 pm PDT by
Following the launch of Apple's new 13-inch MacBook Pro with the M2 chip, it has been discovered that the $1,299 base model with 256GB of storage has significantly slower SSD read/write speeds compared to the equivalent previous-generation model. YouTube channels such as Max Tech and Created Tech tested the 256GB model with Blackmagic's Disk Speed Test app and found that the SSD's read and...
maxresdefault

Video Comparison: M2 MacBook Pro vs. M1 MacBook Pro

Tuesday June 28, 2022 2:45 pm PDT by
Apple last week launched an updated version of the 13-inch MacBook Pro, and it is the first Mac that is equipped with an updated M2 chip. As it's using a brand new chip, we thought we'd pick up the M2 MacBook Pro and compare it to the prior-generation M1 MacBook Pro to see just what's new. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. For the video comparison, we're using the...
iPhone vs Galaxy Larger

Apple Executive Says Samsung Copied the iPhone and Simply 'Put a Bigger Screen Around It'

Tuesday June 28, 2022 8:59 am PDT by
The Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern today shared a new documentary about the evolution of the iPhone ahead of the 15th anniversary of the device launching on June 29, 2007. The documentary includes an interview with Apple's marketing chief Greg Joswiak, iPhone co-creator Tony Fadell, and a family of iPhone users. One segment of the interview reflects on Android smartphones gaining larger...
widgets ios 16 feature

Gurman: iPhone 14 Pro to Feature Always-On Display Showing iOS 16's New Lock Screen Widgets

Sunday June 26, 2022 7:36 am PDT by
iPhone 14 Pro models are widely expected to feature always-on displays that allow users to view glanceable information without having to tap to wake the screen. In the latest edition of his Power On newsletter for Bloomberg, Mark Gurman said the feature will include support for iOS 16's new Lock screen widgets for weather, fitness, and more. "Like the Apple Watch, the iPhone 14 Pro will be...