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

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.

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Apple and Google "knowingly facilitated harmful practices by building advertising-specific tracking IDs into their mobile operating systems," said the letter, which was signed by U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), and Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), as well as U.S. Representative Sara Jacobs (D-California).

Since the release of iOS 14.5 in April 2021, Apple has required apps to ask for permission before tracking a user's activity across other companies' apps and websites, as part of a feature named App Tracking Transparency. If a user selects the "Ask App Not to Track" option, the app is unable to access the device's Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA). On earlier iOS versions, however, access to the IDFA was enabled by default.

"Until recently, however, Apple enabled this tracking ID by default and required consumers to dig through confusing phone settings to turn it off," the letter reportedly said, adding that "these identifiers have fueled the unregulated data broker market."

Given that Apple already implemented App Tracking Transparency last year, it is unclear if any potential FTC investigation would result in any further changes to the company's current policies. The Wall Street Journal said representatives for the FTC, Apple, and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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Top Rated Comments

eoblaed Avatar
25 months ago
And this, boys and girls, is why people that make legal determinations about tech should have at least a rudimentary understanding of tech.

What a joke.
Score: 54 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bookofxero Avatar
25 months ago
Wait until they find out what supermarkets have been doing with "loyalty cards" for decades...
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)
leman Avatar
25 months ago
I am surprised that Microsoft is missing from the list. Windows also uses advertisement IDs, and even more, includes unsolicited ads in their OS interface. Or what about Facebook? Amazon? It really feels silly to single Apple out in this regard.
Score: 27 Votes (Like | Disagree)
unQuestionable Avatar
25 months ago
Wait…isn’t Apple the one company that isn’t trying to do this? I don’t understand why they are going after Apple.
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Spock Avatar
25 months ago
Always behind the times..
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
spazzcat Avatar
25 months ago

Apple needs to be held accountable just like any other company, and perhaps even more so because of their grand claims about privacy when it has been often alleged/shown that they do not live up to their claims. I wish there is a way to make some of the executives personally liable, but I assume that can't really happen. But keep them on their toes and restrict false claims as much as possible.
They have gone to great lengths over the last few years to improve privacy.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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