Apple faces German antitrust investigation over app tracking transparency

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Germany’s federal cartel office, Bundeskartelmt, has launched proceedings against Apple to investigate whether its tracking rules and anti-tracking technology are anti-competitive and self-serving, according to a report. Press release,

Apple App Tracking Transparency Announcement
The process announced today will review Apple’s tracking rules under competition law, and in particular its Application Tracking Transparency Framework (ATT), to determine whether they are preferred by Apple itself or if they hinder third-party applications. Huh. Bundeskartelmutt president Andreas Mundt said of the process:

“We welcome business models that use data carefully and allow users to choose how their data is used. A corporation like Apple, which is in a position to unilaterally set rules for its ecosystem, specifically its applications store, must be competitive”. rules. We have reason to suspect this is what happens when we see that Apple’s rules apply to third parties, but not to Apple itself. This would allow Apple to prioritize its own offerings or block other companies. Our process is largely based on new powers gained as part of stricter abuse control rules regarding large digital companies that were introduced last year (Section 19A German Competition Law – GWB). On this basis, we are taking or have already terminated 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 all apps on the iPhone and iPad to ask for user consent before their activity is tracked in other apps Can you Apps that wish to track a user based on their device’s unique advertising identifier may only do so if the user gives permission when prompted.

Apple said that this feature was made to protect users and not to benefit the company. However, preliminary findings from the Bundeskartellamt indicate that while users may restrict Apple from using their data for targeted advertising, Apple is “not bound by new and additional rules of the App Tracking Transparency Framework.”

The German competition regulator’s proceedings follow previous proceedings brought against Apple in June 2021 that were set up to investigate claims of anti-competitive behavior relating to the App Store, its products and other services.

“In this context,” the regulator said, “the possibilities for Apple itself to combine data between services and users may be relevant, as the question of whether Apple’s processing of data may be relevant to these regulations.” This may result in loss of users. Option for ad supported apps.”

Many advertisers have been impressed by ATT, but Facebook has been the one that expressed and criticized the new change the most. As Apple begins beta testing the framework, Facebook has accused Apple of targeting small businesses that rely on advertising as a means to keep their doors open. Facebook also claimed that the framework was anti-competitive because it gives Apple an advantage in running its mobile advertising business on iOS devices.

Report from 1 October 2021 financial Times reclaim That ATT had resulted in “window gains” for Apple’s advertising business since its launch. The report claimed 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 benefited the company to the detriment of third parties. Earlier this year, it launched a study on the impact of ATT that was conducted by Columbia Business School’s marketing division. The study concluded that Apple is unlikely to see a significant financial gain since the privacy feature was introduced, and the claim to the contrary was speculative and lacked supporting evidence.

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