App Tracking Transparency is designed to give users control over which apps are tracking their activity. However, the company is accused of implementing these measures for competitor apps while excluding their own apps from the same restrictions.
The Bundeskartellamt has initiated a proceeding against the technology company Apple to review under competition law its tracking rules and the App Tracking Transparency Framework. In particular, Apple’s rules have raised the initial suspicion of self-preferencing and/or impediment of other companies, which will be examined in the proceeding.
Apple introduced the App Tracking Transparency Framework for third-party apps with its updates iOS 14.5, iPadOS 14.5 and tvOS 14.5 in April 2021. It establishes certain preconditions for user tracking as defined by Apple by third-party apps. Advertisers or app publishers, for example, can use tracking to display targeted advertising on websites and apps or to track and use user data for other purposes. These options can be particularly relevant to providers of third-party apps in case their business models rely on apps which are available free of charge, but financed through advertising.
Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt: “We welcome business models which use data carefully and give users choice as to how their data are used. A corporation like Apple which is in a position to unilaterally set rules for its ecosystem, in particular for its app store, should make pro-competitive rules. We have reason to doubt that this is the case when we see that Apple’s rules apply to third parties, but not to Apple itself. This would allow Apple to give preference to its own offers or impede other companies. Our proceeding is largely based on the new competencies we received as part of the stricter abuse control rules regarding large digital companies which were introduced last year (Section 19a German Competition Act - GWB). On this basis, we are conducting or have already concluded proceedings against Google/Alphabet, Meta/Facebook and Amazon.”
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