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TikTok and other tech giants in China may get around Apple's inbound App Tracking Transparency changes for iOS, by using a tool from a state-backed group to keep tracking users, even if users deny permission.
Expected to be introduced in the coming weeks, App Tracking Transparency will force developers to ask permission from users before they will be able to track a unique identifier for the device for marketing purposes. While the change may impact western advertisers in their ability to serve customized advertising, companies in China may have a workaround.
The China Advertising Association, a government-backed group with approximately 2,000 members, has introduced CAID, a method to identify and track iPhone users in the country, reports the Financial Times. The system gives its users an alternative to using the existing IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers) used for iPhone tracking, one that isn't limited by ATT's introduction.
The system is being tested out by many companies in China, including two major tech outfits. TikTok owner ByteDance mentioned CAID in an app developer guide, suggesting to advertisers they can "use the CAID as a substitute if the user's IDFA is unavailable.
Report sources close to Tencent and ByteDance claim each are testing the system.
Even though CAID doesn't require ATT permission to track users, doing so may still put companies in hot water. Apple's rules for tracking explain an app still requires ATT-based permission from the user for any sort of tracking, regardless of whether it is IDFA or an alternate third-party method.
It is thought that Apple has the capability of detecting apps that use CAID, and will have the option to block them from the Chinese App Store if needed. CAID has apparently been in testing for a number of months, with sources adding Apple is both aware of it and is turning a blind eye for the moment.
Apple's stance is that the "App Store terms and guidelines apply equally to all developers around the world," and that "users should be asked for their permission before being tracked." Apple that don't take into account a user's choice "will be rejected" by the company.
However, blocking Chinese apps for bypassing ATT in favor of CAID tracking could be a difficult problem for Apple. It is apparently wary of performing such app bans in China if CAID has strong support from both tech firms and government agencies.
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