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Apple defends delay of ad-tracking protection, slams Facebook's 'disregard for user privacy'

Apple defends delay of ad-tracking protection, slams Facebook's 'disregard for user privacy'
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Apple is defending the delay of a new feature that would limit user information gathered by advertisers on its devices following criticism from advocacy groups.

The tech giant has pushed back the release of App Tracking Transparency, a feature announced in June that would allow users to opt out of apps tracking them across platforms, and would require apps to ask users for permission before accessing data about them.

Apple announced the feature in June, with initial plans to include it as part of an iOS14 update for users in mid-September, but said shortly beforehand that the anti-tracking component would be delayed until “early next year.” That prompted Ranking Digital Rights and seven other advocacy groups to voice their "disappointment" with Apple in a letter sent to the company last month.

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Apple responded on Thursday by saying the delay was to give developers more time to “properly update their systems and data practices,” according to a copy of the letter shared by Ranking Digital Rights.

In its response, Apple also slammed other leading tech companies, namely Facebook, for their ad-tracking practices. Facebook has opposed Apple’s new anti-tracking option.

“Apple engages in privacy preserving first party advertising and doesn't append or gather data from third party sources. We simply do not need or want to gobble up more and more data in order to deliver an experience that users appreciate. By contrast, Facebook and others have a very different approach to targeting,” Apple’s senior director of global privacy Jane Horvath wrote in the letter.

“Facebook executives have made clear their intent is to collect as much data as possible across both first and third party products to develop and monetize detailed profiles of their users, and this disregard for user privacy continues to expand to include more of their products,” Horvath added.

Facebook hit back, accusing Apple of being motivated by profit, not privacy.

“They are using their dominant market position to self-preference their own data collection while making it nearly impossible for their competitors to use the same data,” Facebook said in a statement. “They claim it’s about privacy, but it’s about profit.”

In August, Facebook published a post explaining how it planned to address Apple’s iOS14 changes, which at the time were expected to include the new anti-tracking feature. The social media giant said it is “not a change that we want to make, but unfortunately Apple's updates to iOS 14 have forced this decision.”

Facebook said testing of the new feature led to a 50 percent drop in Audience Network publisher revenue. The company warned that the impact “may be much more” due to “many unknowns.”