Apple Begins Rejecting Apps That Defy Tracking Transparency Rules

Apple App Store on iOS
Apple has started implementing new privacy changes on the App Store – Photo by Brett Jordan from Pexels

Apple has started to reject app updates that fail to comply with the updated App Tracking Transparency rules for iOS 14.5, according to a report by Forbes


Apps must first ask permission to access the advertising identifier (IDFA) of an iPhone to track users across apps for advertising. The rule comes into effect with the launch of iOS 14.5. This rule also stops apps from using alternative workarounds to track users. Some apps have already been caught using these workarounds and developers have gotten in trouble for exploiting them. 


Several apps have already been rejected from the store in conjunction with the rule. The Forbes report lists Radish Fiction, Heetch, and InnoGames, among others. Developers get the following message if an app is rejected, “Your app uses algorithmically converted device and usage data to create a unique identifier in order to track the user.” The message also notes the data the app collects. 


Mobile marketing analyst Eric Seufert names an SDK from mobile measurement company Adjust as a major factor in apps being rejected. Adjust is installed in over 50,000 apps and collects data for device fingerprinting, which it says “maximizes the impact” of marketing. 


Apple blocks apps that use fingerprinting techniques to collect data to build a profile of users that allows them to be tracked without their advertising identifier. Data collection leverages metrics such as current software version, time since the last update, time since the last restart, battery status, and battery charge level to identify users. 


Apple says that anyone who declines the use of an IDFA in ad tracking also opts out of being tracked through other means. Apple Store rules say that developers cannot collect data from devices for the purpose of identifying those devices. The rules also say that app developers are responsible for the tracking code in their apps, even code for third-party SDKs like Adjust. 


Adjust has updated the SDK to remove code that accesses certain data including phone memory, CPU, charging status, and battery level. Apps that were rejected because of Adjust could now get back on the store after updating to the latest SDK. 


Apple has yet to announce an official release date for iOS 14.5, but there have been six beta tests so far and the update is due to be released in the spring. Given that Apple is already enforcing App Tracking Transparency rules, the release could be sooner rather than later. 

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