Apple’s app tracking transparency feature isn’t an instant privacy button


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Nov 10, 2017
A report from the Financial Times acts as a reminder of what Apple’s App Tracking Transparency settings do and do not do to protect your privacy (via Ars Technica). While asking apps to not track you does keep them from collecting and selling data tied to your personal advertising identity, it doesn’t keep developers from collecting any information about you at all.

The feature, introduced in iOS 14.5, is meant to prevent app-makers from tracking what you do and selling that information to advertisers. Companies like Facebook cried foul when it was introduced, saying that it would hurt their ability to show targeted, personalized ads, and therefore hurt businesses that relied on those ads.

According to the Financial Times, though, developers have taken Apple’s rules to mean that they’re allowed to target ads at cohorts, or groups that people are put into without needing to have unique IDs assigned. The report says that developers like Snap, Inc. have continued collecting some data, including from those who have asked them not to track them, with the justification that anything that could be tied to an individual user would be anonymized and grouped.

It’s a similar concept to FLoC, Google’s plan for a post-third-party cookie internet, where individuals are assigned labels describing what kind of things they might buy instead of being tracked individually. Ads can still be targeted, without advertisers having to keep track of everything everyone does.

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