Facebook-sponsored research paper slams Apple’s privacy on iOS 14.5

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A Facebook-backed academic study calls Apple’s iOS 14 app tracking transparency feature “pernicious” and claims it uses privacy as a pretext for its anti-competitive actions.

“Harming Competition and Consumers Under the Guise of Protecting Privacy” is a new academic research paper funded by Facebook. Citing the social media company on 11 of its 22 pages, he calls Apple’s privacy features “devastating” and that “app developers, advertisers and the ad ecosystem lose out.”

The article, captioned “An Analysis of Apple’s iOS 14 Policy Updates”, is written by D. Daniel Sokol of the University of Florida Levin College of Law, and Feng Zhu of Harvard Business School.

“Though thinly veiled as a privacy measure, Apple’s iOS 14 policy changes harm the entire ad-supported ecosystem, from developers to advertisers to end consumers,” they write in the full article. “By severely limiting the ability of third-party apps to create value through personalized advertising, Apple’s policy changes undermine competition.”

Since iOS 14.5, app developers have to ask users if they want to allow ads to track them. This app tracking transparency has already seen Facebook want to “cause pain” for Apple, and many global marketing firms have strong objections as well.

The authors of this article describe how Apple’s messaging allegedly uses “stark, biased, and misleading terms” that “diminish consumers’ ability to make meaningful and informed choices about data use.”

It does not address the issue that, prior to app tracking transparency, users were generally not aware of an app’s data usage. He also doesn’t mention that Facebook was never clear about what it was doing with user data, prior to Apple’s moves.

“Without compelling explanations of how its policy changes represent the least restrictive means for competition to improve consumer privacy and why these changes do not apply to Apple’s own apps and services,” the authors state. , “Apple may struggle to justify its exclusionary behavior. .”

Rather than an academic study of an issue, the document reads like a position statement. He criticizes Apple for not having “compelling explanations”, for example, but the authors apparently did not ask Apple for one.

It briefly attempts to put application tracking transparency into a broader context of what else is going on with privacy in the industry. However, it does so primarily in a damning critique of the European General Data Protection Regulation.

The authors state that EU GDPR regulatory measures, intended to reduce spam sent to the public, have “had a negative effect on venture capital investment”. He links this to Apple’s ATT by stating that any system that forces users to opt in to advertising could “chill innovation and reduce consumer welfare.”

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