Apple’s App Tracking Transparency fails to stop third-party tracking

Anne Freer | January 10, 2022

App Business

Apple’s App Tracking Transparency that was rolled out with iOS 14.5 appears to have made no difference in the total number of active third-party trackers, and didn’t affect third-party tracking connection attempts either.

That’s according to new research from the Lockdown Privacy app.

App Tracking Transparency was launched to give users a choice whether they wanted to allow third-party tracking in apps.

Lockdown Privacy set out to test just how effective the feature is at stopping tracking using ten top ranked apps including Yelp, Telegram, Grubhub, Run Rich 3D, Starbucks, Streamer Life!, Subway Surfers, Cash App, DoorDash and Peacock TV.

It found that there was no difference in third-party tracking when users chose “Ask App Not To Track” on their devices.

The number of tracking attempts was slightly lower when users chose not to be tracked.

The study reveals that Apple’s claims aren’t quite holding up and new app tracking requests aren’t auto-denied. Every connection exposed a user’s IP address.

Data shared with apps included accessibility settings, times users restarted their devices, battery and screen level and other settings.

What this report suggests is that Apple’s definition of ‘tracking’ appears to be misleading, too narrow in scope and too vague.

Lockdown Privacy concludes that “App Tracking Transparency is a dud”, giving  users a false sense of security without offering much privacy.

It suggests that Apple should communicate more clearly that ATT is a trust-based system and be clear that it cannot stop third-party tracking.

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