Meta sued for tap-dancing around Apple’s new app privacy rules

from private theater department

Last year, Apple received wide coverage about how the company was making privacy easier for its customers by introducing a new, simple opt-out button for users as part of an iOS 14.5 update.

Apple’s marketing and press reports heavily publicized the App Tracking Transparency system, which would have given consumers control over which apps could collect and monetize user data or track user behavior on the Internet. Advertisers (notably Facebook) cried like disappointed toddlers over Christmas, given the obvious fact that giving users more control over data collection and monetization means less money for them.

But we also noted how Apple’s changes were a bit over the top. About a year ago, researchers started noticing that Apple’s opt-out system was really preventing app makers from accessing only one piece of data: your phone’s ID for advertisers, or IDFA. There were plenty of ways for companies to ignore Apple’s changes and track users anyway, so they quickly got to work doing just that.

This includes Meta. Apple security researcher Felix Krause discovered that Facebook was circumventing Apple’s system by directing any link a user clicks in the Facebook app to a new in-app browser window, where Meta has been able to inject code, modify external websites and track user behavior online… without the consent or knowledge of the user.

As a result, Meta now faces two different class action lawsuits accusing it of violating federal and state privacy laws, including the Wiretap Act, the California Invasion Act Privacy Policy (CIPA) and California’s violation of the Unfair Competition Act. Both lawsuits cite Krause’s research, noting that it “revealed that Meta injects code into third-party websites, a practice that allows Meta to track users and intercept data that would otherwise not be available to it. “.

Admittedly, this is the same company that was busted for offering users a “privacy-protecting VPN” that turned out to be little more than glorified spyware that tracked user behavior when they were going on other platforms. Meta has complained endlessly about Apple’s opt-in changes, saying they’re already costing the company around $10 billion in revenue a year.

But they’re lucky Apple (or the market in general) didn’t push things further. Keep in mind that Apple’s privacy changes, while important, are vastly overstated for branding purposes. Many app makers have been content to tap around the restrictions for some time, often without any sanction from Apple months after being contacted by journalists.

Filed Under: adtech, app tracking transparency, ios, privacy, security, monitoring, tracking

Companies: Apple, Meta

About Sandra A. Powell

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