Apple’s new privacy setting is facing scrutiny from German regulators.
Last year Apple gave the users more control on their privacy settings when they downloaded apps. The new feature is called App Tracking Transparency (ATT) and all third party apps need to receive permission from users before the companies can track their movements online for ad targeting.
But the Germany’s Federal Cartel Office (FCO) has stepped in and has scrutinized this option stating that Apple could be infringing on rules governing competition. The regulator said that Apple might be creating barriers for other companies that are not fair.
The federal agency, the Bundeskartellamt, said in a statement that “… Apple’s rules have raised the initial suspicion of self-preferencing and/or impediment of other companies, which will be examined in the proceeding.”
The issue being raised is that Apple does not enforce the same rule when it comes to apps it has developed and has created an uneven advantage for itself, said Andreas Mundt, president of the Bundeskartellamt.
“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,” she said. “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 give preference to its own offers or impede other companies.”
This is not the first time Apple’s privacy feature has undergone scrutiny in Europe. France’s antitrust regulator in 2021 decided to not block Apple from launching ATT. Instead, the regulator said it would observe the use of this feature. Poland also looked into this new option in December 2021.
While the UK’s regulator, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), stated it was concerned, it has not stepped in yet. The UK has been working on legislation that would limit the ability of the tech behemoths, but that reform has been pushed back until later in 2023 or later.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request from TheStreet for comment.
The company’s spokesperson told TechCrunch that the iPhone and Mac maker believes in competitive markets and supporting app developers globally. The spokesperson emphasized that users should be able to choose whether or not to share their usage data.
“ATT does not prevent companies from advertising or restrict their use of the first-party data they obtain from users with their consent,” Apple’s spokesperson said. “These rules apply equally to all developers — including Apple — and we have received strong support from regulators and privacy advocates for this feature.”