Apple iOS 14 Sparks Antitrust Grievance In France

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Apple’s new operating system, iOS 14, offers new privacy controls and advertising opt-in that triggered a complaint to France’s competition authority from a group of advertising firms and publishers, according to a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report on Wednesday (Oct. 28). 

The complaint alleges that Apple’s iOS privacy modifications are anticompetitive. The changes include limiting how different parts of the phone tracks its users. Another change will require apps to get opt-in permission from users in order to use the identifier for advertisers (IDFA) for targeted campaigns.

The complaint was filed by trade associations on behalf of a number of firms. Their position is that few people will opt in to be tracked, which is a big disadvantage for businesses developing ad campaigns.

The case marks one of the first legal challenges to online privacy on antitrust grounds.

“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 competition lawyer Damien Geradin. He is representing the industry groups, which include the Interactive Advertising Bureau France. He added that it is anticipated that similar cases “will arise increasingly in the future.”

The trade groups have asked the French competition authorities for interim measures that would prevent Apple from instituting changes until the investigation is over.

Apple said “privacy is a fundamental right,” adding, “A user’s data belongs to them and they should get to decide whether to share their data and with whom.”

Privacy advocates want consumers to have a say in how their data is collected and used. A push for increased online privacy led to new laws in Europe and California. 

In a recent survey conducted by Tap Research, 85 percent of people interviewed said they would opt out of app tracking if asked.

EU regulators are going after Big Tech firms to insist on competition and other compliance. It is drawing up a list of about 20 companies that will have to comply with stricter rules. Japanese regulators are also planning to partner with the U.S. and Europe to develop new rules for Big Tech.

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