Apple’s iron fist: group blocks apps that promise rewards for tracking

Apple’s iron fist: group blocks apps that promise rewards for tracking

Dominik Bärlocher
Zurich, on 28.04.2021
Translation: Octavia Hurst
Third-party tracking on Apple devices has had its day. Apple announces measures against those who try to receive tracking information via human greed.

If your iPhone sends «Ask to Not Track» to an app, then third-party cookies and other trackers are disabled. This is the rule that Apple set for the latest version of the iPhone operating system iOS.

What is new is that Apple can ban apps from the App Store if they use the same mechanism Apple uses to block tracking. If an app developer promises you rewards on Apple devices if you allow tracking, then the app will be banned.

The problem with «...and other trackers»

Apps want to track you. Not because they do big spy operations, but because there is money in it. If a migraine app identifies you as a migraine patient, then a pharmaceutical company can buy that data and present you targeted ads for migraine medication. In order for the pharmaceutical company to receive this data, it pays money to the app manufacturer.

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Apple doesn’t want this any more and is taking measures against third-party trackers. But the company is also aware that app makers will find new ways to track you.

Apple wants to hinder that. Preemptive.

Hence «Ask not to Track», which is intended to prohibit any tracking method. Not a perfect solution for a problem where Apple is already a step behind. Because if there’s money in it, app makers will get very creative.

APPeal to human greed

The Internet’s rule of thumb states: if it’s free, then you’re not the customer. You’re the product that is sold. This saying is nowhere more obvious than in promised rewards for handing over data to third-party trackers, which Apple explicitly banned with the release of iOS 14.5.

Because Apple will never stand a chance if you as a user say, «Yes, tracking is okay.»

To get you to say tracking is okay as often as possible, app makers might promise you bonuses. Like «We will give you 20% discount if you allow tracking». What this means: The app is buying your privacy. Literally.

And although there is no known case of such «money for tracking» yet, Apple has already put a stop to it.

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Dominik Bärlocher
Dominik Bärlocher
Senior Editor, Zurich
Journalist. Author. Hacker. A storyteller searching for boundaries, secrets and taboos – putting the world to paper. Not because I can but because I can’t not.

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