Before Apple launched iOS 14 to the public, it was confirmed (after an initial rumor) that Apple was delaying an important privacy feature.
Now, months later, Apple has finally shared a bit more information on the matter. But first, the feature. At its most basic level, its transparency for app tracking. It would simply allow users to determine if they want to be tracked across websites and apps. Many publishers, Facebook included, believed that iOS users would opt out of tracking across apps and websites if given the opportunity. As a result, they decried the upcoming feature.
Unfortunately, Apple’s decision to withhold that feature didn’t go over well with a group of civil and human rights organizations. They penned an open letter to Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, letting him know they were unhappy with Apple’s decision to delay the feature.
Now, Apple has responded to that letter (via 9to5Mac) and echoes the sentiments regarding privacy it has made in the past. Jane Horvath, Senior Director of Global Privacy, said in the letter to the Ranking Digital Rights organization that Apple considers privacy a “fundamental human right”. That’s a statement the company has made in the past, and continues to lean into it.
According to Horvath, Apple was not bending to Facebook’s and other publisher’s will regarding the app transparency feature. Instead, Apple simply wanted to give developers (and publishers) more time to prepare for the changes. Which, yes, makes sense, because these are sweeping changes that will indeed have an impact moving forward.
Horvath confirms that the feature is still set to arrive sometime in early 2021. However, no official release date is revealed. Per the letter:
We delayed the release of ATT to early next year to give developers the time they indicated they needed to properly update their systems and data practices, but we remain fully committed to ATT and to our expansive approach to privacy protections. We developed ATT for a single reason: because we share your concerns about users being tracked without their consent and the bundling and reselling of data by advertising networks and data brokers.
And Apple isn’t doing away with advertising in its entirety. Instead, Apple appears to want to make advertising evolve. Horvath says that Apple wants advertising to respect a user’s privacy moving forward, and that’s the point behind this new feature.
Advertising that respects privacy is not only possible, it was the standard until the growth of the Internet. Some companies that would prefer ATT is never implemented have said that this policy uniquely burdens small businesses by restricting advertising options, but in fact, the current data arms race primarily benefits big businesses with big data sets. Privacy-focused ad networks were the universal standard in advertising before the practice of unfettered data collection began over the last decade or so. Our hope is that increasing user demands for privacy and security, as well as changes like ATT, will make these privacy-forward advertising standards robust once more.
This is more of the same from Apple, which is not surprising at all. The fact the company delayed the feature to begin with was a bit disheartening at the time. However, giving those who will be most impacted by it more time to (hopefully) evolve isn’t a bad thing.
What do you think?