French competition authority issues statement of objections over Apple’s ATT

Image Source: Apple

The French Competition Authority announced on Tuesday that it has issued a statement of objections against Apple, claiming concerns that the company may have broken rules pertaining to the use of iPhone user data for advertising.

The watchdog claimed that it has reason to believe that Apple is abusing its dominant position by enforcing “discriminatory, non-objective, and non-transparent” terms for the use of user data for advertising.

The complaint was originally published by four French advertising trade groups. They filed an antitrust complaint against the company in 2020, when Apple started requiring iOS developers to ask users for permission to track them, known as App Tracking Transparency (ATT).

In March 2021, the French watchdog declined to prevent the launch of ATT but stated that it would keep looking into whether Apple is enforcing less stringent guidelines for its own apps than for those created by outside developers. Now the watchdog says it believes the iPhone maker is abusing its dominant position by doing that. 

According to a research dated back September 2022, Apple’s App Tracking Transparency framework helped Apple to grow its Search Ads adoption. Per the report, Apple’s Search Ads adoption increased by roughly 4% Y/Y to 94.8% between June 2021 and June 2022, joining the oligopoly of Google and Meta. 

Apple denied the allegations saying that ATT “gives users more control by requiring all apps to ask permission before tracking them. Apple, like all developers, is required to comply with ATT.” 

“Apple’s apps do not show an ATT prompt because they do not track, meaning they do not link user or device data with user or device data collected from other companies’ apps, websites, or offline properties for targeted advertising or advertising measurement purposes, nor do they share user or device data with data brokers. Additionally, Apple holds its advertising business to a higher standard of privacy than it requires of any other developer by prompting users for explicit permission before delivering any personalized ads. We have previously received strong support from regulators and privacy advocates on the goal of ATT, including from the FCA [French Competition Authority] and the CNIL [French data protection authority], and we will continue to engage with the FCA constructively to ensure users remain in control of their data,” the company added. 

Back in January, Apple was fined €8 million ($8,485 million) by the French Data Protection Authority (CNIL) on Wednesday for breaking the law by collecting user data automatically for the purpose of displaying personalized ads on the App Store.

Apple is also under scrutiny in the United Kingdom over its App Store fees. At the beginning of this week, on behalf of more than 1,500 app developers in the UK, a 785 million pound ($1 billion) class action lawsuit is being brought against the company over its App Store fees.

Written by Sophie Blake


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