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French advertisers file complaint over Apple's iOS 14 privacy plan

Users will be asked to give permission app-by-app for ad tracking

A collection of advertisers and publishers in France have filed a complaint with the country's competition authority, claiming that iOS 14's blocking of automatic ad tracking will severely affect revenues.

Following months of complaints, a coalition of French advertisers and publishers have taken their case to France's French Autorite de la Concurrence (ADLC).

The coalition includes Interactive Advertising Bureau France, Mobile Marketing Association France, Syndicat des Regies Internet, and Union Des Entreprises de Conseil et Achat Media. They reportedly hope France will force Apple to further delay the changes, which had originally been set for September 2020.

Apple now intends to introduce the feature in 2021. When it's in place, all iPhone users will be specifically asked permission before any ad is allowed to track them.

The companies in the French consortium have previously pointed out that because of European regulations over GDPR data protection, iOS 14 users are effectively going to be asked twice, every time.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the coalition argues that this creates a barrier that will mean most users choosing to refuse ad tracking.

"At the highest level, this is a novel case — a truly important case— because it deals with the use of privacy as a sort of fig leaf for anticompetitive conduct," said Damien Geradin, the competition lawyer who represents the coalition. "We think that this is the sort of thing that will arise increasingly in the future."

"Particularly at the moment of a global pandemic crisis, it's not a good time to have another hit," said Nicolas Rieul, chair of Interactive Advertising Bureau France.

Advertisers fear a repeat of iOS's asking for permission to track location, which has seen very many users choose to block it
Advertisers fear a repeat of iOS's asking for permission to track location, which has seen very many users choose to block it

In response, an Apple spokesperson has reportedly repeated the company's stance that, "privacy is a fundamental right."

"A user's data belongs to them and they should get to decide whether to share their data and with whom," continued the spokesperson.

The coalition has pointed out that users will not be asked to accept ad tracking when using Apple apps. Apple, however, argues that because it does not share user data with other companies, it is not ad tracking in the industry's traditional sense.

Users know that the data is going to Apple, that it is not being sold to other firms to help target people with advertising. "These rules apply equally to all developers — including Apple," said the spokesperson.

The new ad-tracking feature is part of Apple's plan for increased privacy, which also includes Sign In with Apple, which was announced at the same time.