Apple yesterday rolled out the much-awaited iOS 14.5 update for iPhone and iPad (iPadOS 14.5) users. The iOS 14.5 update brought a much-awaited App Tracking Transparency feature that will give users the option of opting out of third-party apps tracking them online. However, to circumvent Apple’s anti-tracking feature, some apps announced rewards for users, if they allow them to continue tracking online behaviour. Now, the Cupertino-based giant has said that it will ban and reject apps on the App Store that attempt to offer users monetary incentives to enable tracking through App Tracking Transparency.
App Tracking Transparency (ATT) is a new framework on iOS and iPadOS 14.5 that requires apps to ask for a user’s permission before tracking them across other apps and websites. The feature, despite being primarily for users’ privacy, has been criticised by many including social media giant Facebook, which deems the feature anti-competitive and will hurt the company’s business. All apps on the App Store must present users with a pop-up that asks whether they wish to be tracked or not. Users are shown a pop-up which gives them two options – “Ask App Not to Track” and “Allow.”
Following the release of ATT, Apple also updated its Human Interface Guidelines with a new section called “Accessing User Data.” In this section, the company outlines the design policies that all apps must follow when they attempt to ask a user for their permission to access personal data, device compatibilities like microphone and camera, and consent to track them across apps and websites. In the updated Human Interface Guidelines, Apple says that any app that attempts to offer monetary incentives to users to convince them to enable tracking will be banned from the App Store. “Don’t offer incentives for granting the request. You can’t offer people compensation for granting their permission, and you can’t withhold functionality or content or make your app unusable until people allow you to track them,” the guidelines said.
Apple’s senior vice president for software Craig Federighi also said in an interview that Apple wanted to make sure that the user had a clear understanding of the decision, and gave the developer an opportunity to explain themselves, the purpose for which they are asking to track users across apps and websites. Upon being asked as to why the new pop-up in iOS 14.5 says “Ask App Not to Track” and not simply say “Do Not Track,” Federighi said that it is a policy issue for Apple to say that developers must not do a certain thing.
In an interview with Wall Street Journal, Federighi said that Apple is focused on doing the right thing and giving people the right choice. “We’re always considering the right things primarily from a customer’s perspective,” he said.