Apple says app tracking transparency policies will be applied globally, following reports that Chinese ad networks are trying to skirt the rules

In a statement, Apple said that its upcoming App Tracking Transparency rules will be applied to all developers equally, worldwide.

This follows reports that the state-backed Chinese Advertising Association had developed workarounds and was encouraging adoption of ‘CAID’ identifiers as an alternative, if the user opts out of allowing IDFA collection.

App Tracking Transparency (ATT) is multi-faceted. At a technical level, it requires an app to show a permissions dialog and get explicit consent from the user to collect what is called an IDFA identifier.

The IDFA allows ad networks to identify the same user device across apps from different developers, as the reported IDFA does not change.

However, Apple’s policy for ATT is not just limited to IDFA collection. Apple’s rules say that an app cannot do cross-app tracking of any kind without getting explicit permission first. At a technical level, the operating system can only guarantee that IDFAs cannot be collected without permission, but the App Store rules apply even more widely.

This second part will be enforced by App Review process. If Apple finds apps that are tracking users without consent when ATT comes into effect, they risk their app being removed from the App Store altogether.

It remains to be seen how consistently and rigorously this will happen in practice, although Apple’s latest statement suggests they will take any violations seriously.

A firm date for when App Tracking Transparency comes into effect has not yet been announced by Apple, but it is expected to arrive alongside the release of iOS 14.5 in the next few weeks. ATT remains controversial as advertising-dependent businesses worry they won’t be able to make as much money if they are no longer able to do effective personalized ad tracking. Apple says they are putting user privacy first.

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