Apple faces German antitrust probe over app monitoring guidelines


Apple is being investigated by Germany’s antitrust watchdog over whether or not the US tech firm’s monitoring guidelines for third-party apps provides it preferential therapy or undermines its rivals within the newest crackdown in opposition to the ability of Big Tech.

Germany’s Federal Cartel Office on Tuesday opened an investigation into the way in which Apple tracks third-party apps, elevating issues that the corporate’s guidelines had been “self-preferencing” and harmed competitors given Apple’s skill to “unilaterally set rules for its ecosystem”.

Apple’s new monitoring guidelines, launched in April 2021, power third-party apps to ask customers for permission earlier than they observe their behaviour to serve them personalised advertisements.

The adjustments have had a major impression on the promoting companies of huge expertise firms. In October 2021, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Snap had been estimated to have misplaced 12 per cent of income within the third and fourth quarters of the yr, or $9.85bn, on account of these adjustments, in response to adtech firm Lotame.

Apple has come below scrutiny beforehand over comparable issues. Last yr, the French competitors watchdog opened an investigation to evaluate whether or not Apple was appearing as a gatekeeper when it got here to third-party apps but it surely concluded that the corporate was not abusing its dominant place.

The newest probe comes after a gaggle of Germany’s largest media, tech and promoting firms, and trade our bodies representing firms together with Facebook and Axel Springer, the proprietor of Bild, Die Welt and Insider, filed a criticism about Apple’s replace final April.

They predicted a 60 per cent fall in promoting revenues for app builders.

The watchdog stated it was involved that Apple’s new guidelines didn’t apply to itself.

“All apps have to ask for their users’ consent to track their data. Apple’s rules now also make tracking conditional on the users’ consent to the use and combination of their data, ” the assertion stated. “These rules apparently do not affect Apple when using and combining user data from its own ecosystem.” 

Andreas Mundt, the company’s head, stated: “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 preference its own offers or impede other companies.”

Mundt stated the recent probe happened due to new powers the watchdog obtained below a brand new legislation launched in 2021. German antitrust investigators have already concluded probes in opposition to different giant tech firms, together with Google and Facebook, utilizing the brand new authorized powers.

Apple on Tuesday stated its guidelines utilized equally to all builders — together with itself. The tech firm stated it had obtained robust help from regulators and privateness advocates for its adjustments.

“ATT [App Tracking Transparency] simply gives users the choice whether or not they want to allow apps to track them or share their information with data brokers. ATT does not prevent companies from advertising or restrict their use of the first-party data they obtain from users with their consent,” it stated.

Apple stated it will proceed to interact constructively with the FCO to deal with questions and “discuss how our approach promotes competition and choice, while protecting users’ privacy and security”.