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Poland latest to probe Apple’s app tracking transparency shift — over self-preferencing concerns

Poland’s competition watchdog is the latest to investigate Apple over policy changes to its mobile platform that impact how third-party apps can track iOS users by requiring they request permission before they can grab data.

The country’s Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) said today that it’s opened an investigation into changes to how Apple’s mobile platform operates in relation to the App Tracking Transparency (ATT) feature that requires app developers to ask iOS users for permission to track them for ad targeting.

Apple has been contacted for comment.

The tech giant announced ATT back in summer last year — launching it, after some delay and ongoing advertiser objections, with iOS 14.5 earlier this year.

“In practice, this means that Apple has significantly reduced the ability of third-party apps to obtain personal data on iOS in order to send personalised ads,” the UOKiK writes in a press announcement of the probe. “However, this does not mean that users’ information is no longer being collected and that they do not receive personalised ads. At the same time, doubts have arisen as to whether the rules established by Apple were not designed to promote their own advertising service, Apple Search Ads, which could be a violation of competition principles.”

“The actions of digital giants are a challenge for antitrust authorities all around the world,” added Tomasz Chróstny, the president of UOKiK, in a statement. “During the course of our investigation, we want to examine whether Apple’s actions may be aimed at eliminating competitors in the market for personalised advertising services, the objective being to better sell their own service. We will investigate whether this is a case of exclusionary abuse of market power.”

France’s competition watchdog already took at look at ATT, following advertiser complaints.

However, earlier this year, France’s Autorité de la concurrence declined to block Apple’s launch of ATT — saying, back in March, that it did not consider the introduction of the feature to be an abuse of a dominant position.

Although the Autorité said it would continue investigating the policy change — specifically saying it wanted to check whether Apple was applying less restrictive rules for its own apps versus third-party developers’ ads (which appears to be a key part of the concern driving UOKiK’s probe).


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