The App Tracking Transparency on an Apple iPhone and iPad devices is little more than a smokescreen. It is lulling users into a false sense of security, and control over their own data claims a new report.
Apple Inc. seemingly went against the tide and allowed iPhone and iPad users the ability to control who has access to their data. A new report claims the “Ask App Not to Track” button isn’t as effective as Apple Inc. claims in its marketing materials. The button is the core aspect of App Tracking Transparency.
What is the Apple Inc App Tracking Transparency or ATT, and what does it promise to do?
Apple Inc. made headlines last year with the App Tracking Transparency or ATT. The ATT essentially puts up a system-level prompt for each app. It is also available as a system-wide setting.
ATT is essentially a doorkeeper for all the apps. Every app installed on an iPhone and iPad must secure permission from its users about tracking them.
When you ‘Ask app not to track,’ some iPhone apps keep snooping anyway. How apps are using more invasive “fingerprinting” to evade Apple’s new privacy rules: https://t.co/Y2TswCwbQH "When it comes to stopping 3rd-party trackers, App Tracking Transparency is a dud.”
— dri (@DriXander) September 25, 2021
Every iPhone and iPad has an Advertising ID, called IDFA (Apple Identifier for Advertisers). Apple links all the user-specific data points that help advertisers track the user to this unique IDFA.
If an iPhone or iPad user denies permission to track to an app, the device should, in theory, withhold the IDFA. The Apple-branded devices users will still get ads on their device, but they should be rather random, or in many cases, irrelevant.
Apple’s App Tracking Transparency Feature Doesn’t Stop Tracking https://t.co/gqeZOCSJUz
— Euro Journal – English News (@eurojournalENG) September 25, 2021
This is the basic principle behind Apple App Tracking Transparency or ATT, and its ‘Ask App Not to Track’ button. However, a new report claims this button, and the ATT in general, do not have the power to actually deny data collection.
Even if iPhone and iPad users specifically deny consent to an app, it does so anyways?
Whenever an Apple iPhone user denies his consent to track, he gets a sense of privacy and security. This is primarily because of the choice of wordings and assurances that “Do Not Track” offers.
However, a new study by Lockdown Privacy claims the reality is far from Apple’s “what happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone,” assurance.
Apple's App Tracking Transparency (ATT) is the new 'Do Not Track' header.
— Sergiu Gatlan (@serghei) September 23, 2021
Even if iPhone and iPad users request apps not to collect their activity across other companies’ apps and websites, popular iPhone apps still do, claims the new report.
“We found that App Tracking Transparency made no difference in the total number of active third-party trackers. We further confirmed that detailed personal or device data was being sent to trackers in almost all cases.”
Lockdown Privacy is featured in the @washingtonpost!
We dissected ten top apps and found that App Tracking Transparency didn't stop third-party trackers when you tap "Ask App Not To Track".
And we even went "undercover" as a tracker and found how easy it was to cheat ATT:
— Lockdown Privacy (@lockdown_hq) September 23, 2021
An Apple Inc. spokesperson made a rather interesting statement pertaining to ATT:
“When the user selects ‘Ask App Not to Track,’ the app is informed that the user would not like to be tracked by any means, and all developers – including Apple – are strictly required to comply with the user’s choice.”
“If we discover that a developer is not honoring the user’s choice, we will work with the developer to address the issue, or they will be removed from the App Store.”
— Jörg Bühmann (@Orkoden) September 24, 2021
The statement seems to imply that Apple Inc. relies on app developers to “respect the wishes” of the users. This could be in stark contrast to the way Apple portrays ATT and its system-wide power to deny apps the ability to track.
Previous reports have claimed that iPhones routinely send some data to wireless carriers, websites, app developers. Apple Inc. also routes some data to its own servers and services.
Needless to mention, this is completely opposite to the company’s famous claims: “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.”