Apple releases controversial anti-tracking feature after months-long delay

Apple released its long-awaited–and debated–anti-tracking feature Monday as part of the new IOS 14.5 update, giving users a way to turn off tracking across apps on its devices.

The Transparency Feature requires apps to ask users for permission to track them across the web and notifies them that the information gathered will be used to target ads to them based on that information.

Apple released a video to explain the feature and touted it as a way to increase privacy while using smartphones and tablets.

“Your information is for sale. You have become the product. That’s why iPhone users will now be asked a single simple question — allow apps to track you or not,” the video was narrated. “Whatever you choose is up to you, but at Apple we believe you should have a choice.”

Anonymous feature used by advertisers

The feature targets the anonymous ID for Advertisers (IDFA), which shadows users in apps and on the web and collects data about their preferences. When users opt out of tracking, it disables the IDFA so it can’t be used.

Advertisers and critics of the feature say that most users will probably opt out of being tracked, which could cause ad revenues to plummet 50-75% and cause some apps supported by ads into bankruptcy.

Venture Beat even accuses Apple of profiting off of the feature, saying that apps that transition to a subscription model to make up for lost ad revenue will end up paying 30% of that revenue to Apple as a fee, the way such things are currently structured.

Facebook is one of the major opponents to this tracking feature, which it uses heavily in targeting its ads.

Germany has sued Apple for anti-trust violations over the feature, which was originally going to come out in September.

Giving consumers a choice

Digital privacy advocates back the feature, however, saying consumers should at least have a choice about whether to be tracked.

The choice between paying for content and allowing tracking so that content can remain free is now before consumers, who may or may not understand that by saying no to tracking, they are saying no to continued free content in many cases.

But no one’s data should be used without their consent, no matter how much free content it gets them.

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