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Apple backs down on targeted adverts

by on09 December 2021

Waters down its plan

Apple has allowed app developers to collect data from its one billion iPhone users for targeted advertising, in an unacknowledged shift that lets companies follow a much looser interpretation of its privacy policy.

Apple has been selling its iPhones on the back of the privacy policy changes. It even released an advert that featured a harassed man whose daily activities were closely monitored by an ever-growing group of strangers. When his iPhone prompted him to "Ask App Not to Track", he clicked it and they vanished. Apple's message to potential customers was clear -- if you choose an iPhone, you are choosing privacy.

Seven months later, if he pressed that button Snap and Facebook would still be there having been allowed to keep sharing user-level signals from iPhones, as long as that data is anonymised and aggregated rather than tied to specific user profiles.

Snap has told investors that it plans to share data from its 306m users -- including those who ask Snap "not to track" -- so advertisers can gain "a more complete, real-time view" on how ad campaigns are working. Any personally identifiable data will first be obfuscated and aggregated.

Facebook operations chief Sheryl Sandberg said the social media group was engaged in a "multiyear effort" to rebuild ad infrastructure "using more aggregate or anonymised data".

Apple told developers they "may not derive data from a device for the purpose of uniquely identifying it". This means they can observe "signals" from an iPhone at a group level, enabling ads that can still be tailored to "cohorts" aligning with certain behaviour but not associated with unique IDs.
The Tame Apple Press insists that this type of tracking is becoming the norm, but following it does make Apple’s privacy plan seem like an advertising gimmick rather than serious.

Last modified on 09 December 2021
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