Apple Faces German Antitrust Probe Into App Tracking Transparency

Germany's Federal Cartel Office, the Bundeskartellamt, has initiated proceedings against Apple to investigate whether its tracking rules and anti-tracking technology are anti-competitive and self-serving, according to a press release.

apple app tracking transparency ad
The proceeding announced today will review under competition law Apple's tracking rules and specifically its App Tracking Transparency Framework (ATT) in order to ascertain whether they are self-preferencing Apple or being an impediment to third-party apps. Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt, said of the proceeding:

"We welcome business models which use data carefully and give users choice as to how their data are used. A corporation like Apple which is in a position to unilaterally set rules for its ecosystem, in particular for its app store, should make pro-competitive rules. We have reason to doubt that this is the case when we see that Apple's rules apply to third parties, but not to Apple itself. This would allow Apple to preference its own offers or impede other companies. Our proceeding is largely based on the new competencies we received as part of the stricter abuse control rules regarding large digital companies which were introduced last year (Section 19a German Competition Act - GWB). On this basis, we are conducting or have already concluded proceedings against Google/Alphabet, Meta/Facebook and Amazon.

Introduced in April 2021 with the release of iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5, Apple's App Tracking Transparency Framework requires that all apps on ‌iPhone‌ and ‌iPad‌ ask for the user's consent before tracking their activity across other apps. Apps that wish to track a user based on their device's unique advertising identifier can only do so if the user allows it when prompted.

Apple said the feature was designed to protect users and not to advantage the company. However, the Bundeskartellamt's preliminary findings indicate that while users can also restrict Apple from using their data for personalized advertising, Apple "is not subject to the new and additional rules of the App Tracking Transparency Framework."

The German competition regulator's proceeding is subsequent to an earlier proceeding initiated against Apple in June 2021 that was set up to look into claims of anti-competitive behavior related to the App Store, its products, and other services.

"In this context," said the regulator, "the possibilities for Apple itself to combine data across services and users' options regarding the processing of their data by Apple can be relevant, just like the question whether these rules may lead to a reduction of users' choice of apps financed through advertising."

Many advertisers have been impacted by ATT, but Facebook has been the most vocal and critical of the new change. Ever since Apple began to beta test the framework, Facebook accused Apple of impacting small businesses who rely on advertising as a means of keeping their doors open. Facebook also claimed that the framework was anti-competitive because it gives Apple an upper hand for running its own mobile advertising business on iOS devices.

An October 2021 report by the Financial Times claimed that ATT had resulted in a "windfall" for Apple's advertising business since its introduction. The report asserted that Apple's share of the mobile app advertising market tripled in the six months after the feature was introduced.

Apple has disputed suggestions that its ATT framework has unfairly benefitted the company to the detriment of third-parties. Earlier this year it commissioned a study into the impact of ATT that was conducted by Columbia Business School's Marketing Division. The study concluded that Apple was unlikely to have seen a significant financial benefit since the privacy feature launched, and that claims to the contrary were speculative and lacked supporting evidence.

Top Rated Comments

AlexESP Avatar
15 weeks ago

Good. iOS needs to be more like macOS anyway. iOS is unnecessarily restrictive.
Ok, you think that, the majority of iPhone users don’t think so. Let Apple design iPhones just as they want.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
contacos Avatar
15 weeks ago
I mean if Apple does not track us, there is no point for them to add App Transparency to their own apps right? Kind of dumb. I am just waiting for them to rule against Apple basically for the fact that they do not track us unlike competitors. How ironic
Score: 19 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BootsWalking Avatar
15 weeks ago
Apple said the feature was designed to protect users and not to advantage the company. However, the Bundeskartellamt's preliminary findings indicate that while users can also restrict Apple from using their data for personalized advertising, Apple "is not subject to the new and additional rules of the App Tracking Transparency Framework."

I'm a huge fan of Apple's app tracking transparency but Apple has to abide by the same transparency rules they're imposing on third-parties, otherwise Germany is right about it being anti-competitive in favor of Apple.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
wanha Avatar
15 weeks ago
What Apple introduced with ATT was for users to opt IN to tracking.

Before ATT, tracking was the default setting and the user had very little choice or knowledge about who tracked you, how extensively, and with whom your data was shared.

Tracking, as such, isn't inherently wrong, but only as long as consumer opt IN to it.

Personally, for this one reason alone, I am a HUGE fan of ATT.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
T Coma Avatar
15 weeks ago
Lol @ state “concern” about tracking. Esp. any first world technocracy.

“Ja, too self serving, Herr Apfel. Ze government is ze only sing which shall be served by tracking ze citizen, ja?”
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Danfango Avatar
15 weeks ago
Only Germany could come up with something quite as ironic considering their surveillance legislation history.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

generic tracking prompt orange

Apple-Commissioned Report Says App Tracking Transparency Hasn't Significantly Benefitted Company

Tuesday April 26, 2022 10:00 am PDT by
Apple is unlikely to have seen a significant financial benefit from App Tracking Transparency since the privacy feature launched last year, according to Kinshuk Jerath, Professor of Business in the Marketing Division at Columbia Business School. In an Apple-commissioned report, Jerath said claims that billions of advertising dollars moved from companies like Meta to Apple due to the...
apple maps 3d feature

Apple Has Internally Tested Injecting Ads Into Maps App Search Results [Updated]

Monday August 15, 2022 5:27 am PDT by
Apple is aiming to triple its ad revenue from $4 billion per year to double-digit figures by expanding its advertising to more apps, according to Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Currently, Apple ads appear in App Store app searches, where developers pay for promoted spots in results, as well as more standard ads that appear in the News and Stocks apps. Apple also generates revenue with commercials...
facebook meta

Meta Sued Over Tracking iPhone Users Despite Apple's Privacy Features

Thursday September 22, 2022 5:12 am PDT by
Meta is facing a new proposed class action lawsuit that accuses it of tracking and collecting the personal data of iPhone users, despite features and policies made by Apple which are meant to stop that same type of tracking. In August, it was revealed that with the Facebook and Instagram apps, Meta can track all of a user's key taps, keyboard inputs, and more, when using the in-app browser....
generic tracking prompt orange

U.S. Senators Urge FTC to Investigate Apple for 'Transforming Online Advertising Into an Intense System of Surveillance'

Friday June 24, 2022 8:19 am PDT by
In a letter sent to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chair Lina Khan today, four U.S. legislators said the FTC should "investigate Apple and Google's role in transforming online advertising into an intense system of surveillance," according to The Wall Street Journal. Apple and Google "knowingly facilitated harmful practices by building advertising-specific tracking IDs into their mobile...
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...
facebook tracking notification

Apple and Facebook Reportedly Discussed 'Revenue-Sharing' Ideas in Past

Friday August 12, 2022 9:55 am PDT by
Facebook has been in a feud with Apple since the iPhone maker introduced its App Tracking Transparency feature that lets users opt out of being tracked across apps on its platforms. In the past, however, Apple reportedly discussed potential "revenue-sharing arrangements" with Facebook that could have given Apple a "slice of Facebook's revenue." According to The Wall Street Journal, which...
aapl logo banner

'Brutal Battle' Expected as Regulators Close in on Apple Around the World

Tuesday June 21, 2022 8:52 am PDT by
Experts anticipate a "brutal battle" between Apple and global regulators amid concerns about how the company may "exaggerate" its privacy and security claims for commercial gain and curtail interoperability to keep users locked into a "walled garden." Global experts and leaders of competition policy convened at the Data, Technology, and Analytics Conference 2022 last week, hosted by the UK's ...
tim cook privacy

Apple Collects the Least Amount of User Data Out of Major Tech Companies, Study Suggests

Thursday August 25, 2022 3:21 am PDT by
A new analysis has found that out of major tech giants, Apple collects the least amount of private user data from its users, with Google, Twitter, Amazon, and Facebook collecting much more data from its users than the iPhone maker. The study measured how many data points each company collects from its users. The study found that Google topped the list, collecting a total of 39 data points...

Popular Stories

apple watch ultra deuglify 1

Apple Watch Ultra User Mods Titanium Casing to 'Deuglify' Design

Tuesday September 27, 2022 8:05 am PDT by
An Apple Watch Ultra user has modified their new device's casing to add a brushed finish and remove the orange color of the Action Button in an effort to make it more visually appealing. The Apple Watch Ultra offers the first complete redesign of the Apple Watch since the product line's announcement in 2014, and while the design has been met with praise from many users, some have criticized...
Dark Sky App Featured

Dark Sky Removed From iOS App Store Ahead of Upcoming Shutdown

Wednesday September 28, 2022 4:27 pm PDT by
The Dark Sky weather app that's owned by Apple is no longer available for download in the U.S. App Store, suggesting that it has been removed ahead of schedule. Apple acquired Dark Sky back in March 2020 and has since incorporated elements of the app into the Weather app available on the iPhone (and soon, the iPad). Dark Sky remained available for purchase as a standalone weather app...
iphone 14 pro max vs 13 max 2

Camera Comparison: iPhone 14 Pro Max vs. iPhone 13 Pro Max

Thursday September 29, 2022 7:44 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max introduce some major improvements in camera technology, adding a 48-megapixel lens and low-light improvements across all lenses with the new Photonic Engine. We've spent the last week working on an in-depth comparison that pits the new iPhone 14 Pro Max against the prior-generation iPhone 13 Pro Max to see just how much better the iPhone 14 Pro Max can be. Subscrib ...
apple watch ultra hammer test

YouTuber Tests Apple Watch Ultra Durability With a Hammer: Table Breaks Before the Watch

Sunday September 25, 2022 2:27 pm PDT by
A YouTuber has put Apple's claims for the durability of the Apple Watch Ultra to the test by putting it up against a drop test, a jar of nails, and repeated hits with a hammer to test the sapphire crystal protecting the display. TechRax, a channel popular for testing the durability of products, first tested the Apple Watch Ultra by dropping it from around four feet high. The Apple Watch...
tony blevins car

Apple Procurement VP Departs Company After Vulgar TikTok Comment

Thursday September 29, 2022 12:38 pm PDT by
Tony Blevins, Apple's vice president of procurement, is set to depart the company after he made a crude comment about his profession in a recent TikTok video, reports Bloomberg. Blevins was in a video by TikTok creator Daniel Mac, who was doing a series on the jobs of people he spotted with expensive cars. After seeing Blevins in an expensive Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, Mac asked Blevins what ...
iPhone 14 Pros in Hand Black Background Feature

Verizon iPhone 14 Pro Customers Reporting Cellular Connection Issues

Monday September 26, 2022 6:23 am PDT by
iPhone 14 Pro customers on the Verizon network in the U.S. are reporting issues with slow and unreliable 5G cellular connections and calls randomly dropping. Several threads on Reddit (1,2,3) and the MacRumors forums chronicle issues faced by Verizon customers and Apple's latest iPhone. According to user reports, signal strength on the iPhone 14 Pro is unreliable and weak, while other...
iPhone 15 to Switch From Lightning to USB C in 2023 feature sans arrow

Kuo: iPhone 14 Pro Max Popularity Could Lead to More Differentiation Between iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max

Wednesday September 28, 2022 10:22 am PDT by
Apple has seen high demand for the 6.7-inch iPhone 14 Pro Max, which could lead the company to further differentiate the next-generation iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Apple could add exclusive features to the iPhone 15 Pro Max in an effort to encourage more people to purchase the larger and more expensive device. Kuo last week said that Apple asked...
iPhone 14 Pro Sports Scores Dynamic Island

iPhone 14 Pro Features Live Sports Scores in Dynamic Island on iOS 16.1

Monday September 26, 2022 7:52 am PDT by
Earlier this month, Apple announced that iOS 16.1 will enable a new Live Activities feature that allows iPhone users to stay on top of things that are happening in real time, such as a sports game or a food delivery order, right from the Lock Screen. On the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max, Live Activities also integrate with the Dynamic Island. Premier League match in Dynamic Island via Paul Bradford ...
iOS 16

Everything New in the Latest iOS 16.1 and iPadOS 16.1 Betas: Stage Manager Expansion, Wallpaper Tweaks and More

Tuesday September 27, 2022 11:36 am PDT by
Apple today released new betas of iOS 16.1 and iPadOS 16.1 to developers, tweaking some of the functionality that's been introduced in prior betas and in the case of iPadOS 16.1, adding a major new feature to Stage Manager. We've rounded up everything new in both betas below. Wallpaper Updates Apple has updated the Wallpaper section of the Settings app to allow users to swap between...
General iOS 16 Feature Yellow

Some iOS 16 Users Continue to Face Unaddressed Bugs and Battery Drain Two Weeks After Launch

Monday September 26, 2022 7:34 am PDT by
Today marks exactly two weeks since Apple released iOS 16 to the public. Besides the personalized Lock Screen, major changes in Messages, and new features in Maps, the update has also seen its fair share of bugs, performance problems, battery drain, and more. After major iOS updates, it's normal for some users to report having issues with the new update, but such reports usually subside in...